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Remembering Tuskegee Airman George Hickman

By on August 22, 2012

The world lost a legendary airman in Mr. George Hickman, one of the country’s first black pilots and original Tuskegee airmen who fought in World War II. He died Sunday morning at age 88. Hickman is survived by his wife Doris.

In 2007, he and other Tuskegee airmen traveled to Washington, D.C., to receive the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor that Congress can give. In 2009, he attended President Barack Obama’s inauguration as a special guest.

Hickman was a beloved figure at Seattle sporting events, and could often be seen shaking hands and hugging fans, athletes and reporters. He personalized the often anonymous job of ushering, and most regulars to UW games knew him by first name. Many athletes came to expect hugs, handshakes or pats from him before games.

“Things will be a little different right before we go out on the court not being able to shake the hand of George Hickman,” UW basketball coach Lorenzo Romar tweeted Monday. Romar recalled Hickman at games, doling out handshakes and encouraging words even when the team wasn’t doing well. Hickman worked a number of posts, including usher and press box attendant, at Huskies games for several decades. He also served as a press box greeter at Seahawks games. He raised the 12th Man flag before the Seahawks game against the Baltimore Ravens last November.

The grandson of slaves, Hickman nurtured an interest in aviation as a curious boy gazing up at the sky above St. Louis. That passion evolved from buying model airplanes to joining the segregated pilot training program in Tuskegee, Ala., and later to a nearly three-decade long career at Boeing in Seattle.

He served in the Army Air Corps from 1943-45, which trained African Americans to fly and maintain combat aircraft, and was part of the graduating class of 1944, according to a 2012 Army profile. Interestingly, Hickman was eliminated from pilot training in 1943- effectively blocked from flying when he called out white superior officers for the mistreatment of a fellow black cadet. But undeterred, he graduated from the program as a crewman.

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