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 (6/18-6/24)
25 photos Launch gallery
1. Me & the homie @jaleelwhite #RujohnFoundation Happy to be in Jamaica! Good times
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5. Good Morning. Early day in Detroit! Making press rounds for @thebossnetwork's Ladies That Lead Tour. Thank you @traycemadre and @colourbynumbr for my glam.
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6. POWER the best show on TV @djenvy, Queens we so big out here. #EFFENVODKA #FRIGO
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7. They said u lost a step, wasn't explosive as once was, the best days was in the real view, questioned your drive, your leadership, your commitment, you don't have killer instinct, going back home is the worst mistake in your career, he got the coach fired, players traded, won't work between him and Kyrie, Him and Kev won't work, love your teammates to much, there's no way he can deliver a championship in his hometown, etc etc etc.... But guess what THATS NONE OF MY BUSINESS #StriveForGreatness #ThisOneIsForTheLand #PutSomeRespeckOnMyName Hahahaha!!! Yes sir
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8. Oooooh weeee this man right here is responsible for at least three of our four babies!! #JOE ❤❤❤🎤 #rnb #king #voicelikebutter #ForPeetesSake
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9. Hanging with my @abcnetwork family! @abcunclebuck tonite y'all check us out ! @anthonyanderson @traceeellisross
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10. My broski ( @sayeedshahidi ) and I are on Top 5 Live on @go90 at 5 (which is super duper close)! Make sure to tune in :) #UncleBuck #Blackish
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11. Lights out💤 #GoodNight
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12. Late nights mornings
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13. Ran into the lovely talented @siedahgarrett on this brutiful favvuz deh!
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14. #halal #love #thedargans #kattwilliamsSHOW #mashallah when that Jennah piece HIT!! @sweetjennahcollection glasses by @baddieglamaccessories LIZ 😍 @dynamiteko top @dazzledmv and jeans @thevision414 and shoes: @louboutinworld
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15. Big Hair and Optical Illusions #OceanDrive #MiamiLiving #coverparty
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16. MAMA and THE SAVAGES ... ⚓️ #supportyourlocalgirlgang
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17. From the bottom of my ❤️, thank you new followers & old! & hello fellow night owls! #grateful #racheltrue #naturalhair #curlyhair #curlygirl #healthyhair
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18. I feel so grateful because I met these amazing young minds, visiting from Houston TX, during their college tour stop today at #usc.These students are ALL extraordinary and embody academic excellence so I'm humbled to have shared a few moments with them to applaud and celebrate their bright futures ahead! Thank you @EmergeFellows for inviting me to speak and blessing me with your love and attention this afternoon!
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19. Happy Fathers Day Pops. U taught me how to be a man. Lessons of love, hard work & gratefulness. Sorry the fishing didn't stick. LOL. I Love U!
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20. Sky Zone and Ice Cream! Best Fathers Day Ever!! Photo credit @mariahcarey
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21. Look what finally came in the mail 😎 #mtvmovieawards2016 💥+🌽! #straightouttacompton
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22. Claudia Jordan: ....
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23. 'Member that time I almost knocked a bajillion dollar camera off the car? Really? Yeah, me neither! #Greenleaf Episode 2 comin atcha!
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24. Full of love. #birthday #Cabo
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25. Oh hey! Look who just joined Snapchat
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