SEATTLE (AP) — George Hickman, one of the original Tuskegee airmen and a longtime usher at University of Washington and Seattle Seahawks games, has died at age 88.
His wife, Doris, confirmed Monday that he died early Sunday morning in Seattle.
Hickman was one of the country's first black military pilots and ground crew members who fought in World War II.
In 2007, he and other Tuskegee airmen traveled to Washington, D.C., to receive the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation's highest civilian honor. In 2009, he attended President Barack Obama's inauguration as a special guest.
Hickman was a fixture at Seattle sporting events. He personalized the often anonymous job of ushering fans to their seats, and most regulars to UW basketball and football games knew him by first name. He was perhaps the best known person at Husky Stadium.
"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.
UW football coach Steve Sarkisian also tweeted: "He represented the UW and the Tuskegee Airmen with class. I will always appreciate how he treated my family."
"He was just a wonderful man," Doris Hickman said Monday of her husband.
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 cheap 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 an Army profile. He graduated from the airman program as a crewman and served in Europe as a flight mechanic during WWII.
"There was nothing better in the world. In that biplane, the guy wires between the wings were like musical instruments," he told the News Tribune of Tacoma in a 2011 interview.
But he also recalled in a 2009 Associated Press interview the humiliation of being pushed off sidewalks in the South and spit at while in uniform.
As a cadet captain, he was effectively blocked from flying when he called out white superior officers for the mistreatment of a fellow black cadet. "I felt like I had really been mistreated," he told the AP.
In 1955, he met and married his wife in Amarillo, Texas, while volunteering with her mother at a local library, according to an Army profile.
Doris Hickman was drawn to her husband's character when they first met.
He moved to Seattle in 1995 to work for Boeing and ultimately was in charge of accounting Boeing training equipment. He retired in 1984.
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (11/26-12/2)
30 photos Launch gallery
1. Little Legend and Puddy 😍😍😍😍
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2. "You on point Phife?" "all the time,Tip". 💥 #bannedfromnormal
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3. Vegan! The Impossible burger at Crossroads
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4. Lawrence #BeforeandAfterEpisodes 1-4: 184lbs 13% body fatEpisode 8: 196lbs 8% body fat S/O @coachdaveboxing with the works outs and @kildareriordan with the nutrition
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5. Jus haaaanngin out
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6. Meanwhile back at home in Atlanta GA someone mad they not on the 🛳. 😳
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7. No limits... Photo cred: Chris Bridges @ludacris
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8. new new
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9. Apparently my 260lbs is too much for the actual vines in the Hawaiian jungles to hold me without breaking and me falling hundreds of feet. So for safety purposes, I'm forced to swing thru #Jumanjj on wires strong enough to hold 12 adult buffaloes and 1 adult Rock. #OnSet #Jumanji #IronicallyIEatBuffaloDailyForLunch #MoreManThanNatureKnowsWhatToDoWith
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10. hey ma! 🎎#wcw 💙
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11. Surprise visit to our factories!!! #GoodAmerican #USA
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13. Peachy Keen 🔥✨⚡️
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14. If this don't look thankful I don't know what does. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. #UltraBlessed #24kMagic #SweetPotatoFly
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15. Late nights @nbcmarlon with the writers... we in here!!!
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16. There goes my baaaaaaaaabbbbyyyyy #QueenKingMagic!!! We're up to something! Ira BIG!!! Stay out our buisness -
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17. You want to win every game you play but when you come home to these faces... who cares. #ILoveYouGirls best part of my day, everyday!
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18. Steady,steady..... full size jenga.. "I got this one "???? Or do I ?
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19. Cornrows kind of day 😉@dontaysavoy2 you convinced me and I love. ❤️️
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20. #BrotherlyLove #tbt
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22. #basel #TeamLOVE @kingcombs
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23. Just introduced a special screening of @directher 's groundbreaking (must see) documentary @13thfilm with my brother @themichaelealy | @unitedblackout #blackoutblackfriday
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24. Me & Vanessa Williams giving #DuckLips #Pose on the set of #DaytimeDivas @vh1 - Coming Soon to a tv near you. Lol. - My make up done by @makeupsurgeon
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25. This picture just makes me wanna praise the Lord, you hear me!!!!!! Yes Lord brotha #TEDDYCAMPBELL What a #man !!! You are everything right on this picture husband ......... #gorgeous #stylish #classy #strong #masculine #king #sexy #debonair #gentlemenstyle And that #bible in your hand just seals the deal for me (probably cause i know that, that is what helped you become just as amazing as you look😘). While my heart and mind experiences the goodness of God at #church on Sundays, my eyes experiences the goodness of Teddy😍. Amen somebody🙌🏽. "Bless the Lord oh my soul and all that is within me bless his holy name" #myman #myhusband #goodman #blackman #dapperman #godlyman #goodfather #mybestfriend
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26. Yesterday was my mama's 53rd birthday!!!!! Got to celebrate with her all day. If this is what I have to look forward to I can't wait. Looking like a soft bucket a cocoa butter. Yaaaaaaaaaas! 😍😍😍 love you mommy!
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27. "Shout out to @PureAtlanta for getting the family right"....I'm loving this jogger. 😍😍
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28. This pic warms my heart ❤️ #myLogiebeans and aunt aunt umba @itowandabraxton 😘
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29. You will always be my baby😜. #HappyBirthdayReginae #mybaby18
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30. GC "Gods Child" Red on Red SweatSuit available now at www.MonicaApparel.com ... Take Your Crown wherever you go!! I'm pictured in a Medium... Go to the site now for other options ... cc: @trukernell
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