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Vandenberg honors Tuskegee Airman

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Michelle Hicks Behrens, granddaughter of Chief Master Sgt. Arthur Norris Hicks, speaks during Hicks’ memorial service at the base chapel, March 17, 2018, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Hicks served with the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II and worked as an educator and human rights advocate. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jim Araos/Released)

Michelle Hicks Behrens, granddaughter of Chief Master Sgt. Arthur Norris Hicks, speaks during Hicks’ memorial service at the base chapel, March 17, 2018, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Hicks served with the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II and worked as an educator and human rights advocate. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jim Araos/Released)

Black History Month Committee singers perform during Chief Master Sgt. Arthur Norris Hicks’ memorial service at the base chapel, March 17, 2018, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Hicks served with the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II and worked as an educator and human rights advocate. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jim Araos/Released)

Black History Month Committee singers perform during Chief Master Sgt. Arthur Norris Hicks’ memorial service at the base chapel, March 17, 2018, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Hicks served with the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II and worked as an educator and human rights advocate. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jim Araos/Released)

U.S. Congress Rep. Salud Carbajal, 24th District, speaks during Chief Master Sgt. Arthur Norris Hicks’ memorial service at the base chapel, March 17, 2018, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Hicks served with the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II and worked as an educator and human rights advocate. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jim Araos/Released)

U.S. Congress Rep. Salud Carbajal, 24th District, speaks during Chief Master Sgt. Arthur Norris Hicks’ memorial service at the base chapel, March 17, 2018, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Hicks served with the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II and worked as an educator and human rights advocate. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jim Araos/Released)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --

The Vandenberg Chapel held a memorial service for retired Chief Master Sgt. Arthur Norris Hicks, one of the original Tuskegee Airmen, here, March 17. 

Hicks grew up in the segregated South, served with the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II, and worked as an educator and human rights advocate.

The speakers, consisting of friends and family, included U.S. Congress Rep. Salud Carbajal, 24th District; California Sen. Hanna-Beth Jackson, 9th District; Sheriff Bill Brown, Santa Barbara County; U.S. Air Force retired Brig. Gen. Leon Johnson; former Mayor Joyce Howerton, City of Lompoc; U.S. Air Force retired Lt. Col. Gregory Smith; U.S. Air Force Col. Nathan Smith; and U.S. Air Force retired Lt. Col. Bernard Jones; Michelle Hicks Behrens, granddaughter; Philip Hicks Behrens, grandson; Joyce M. Hicks, daughter; and Arthur N. Hicks II, son.

Hicks was a person who constantly worked towards change.

“I want to recognize what the loss of Art is to the Lompoc community,” said Carbajal. “Art was an early defender of civil rights and human rights. Most importantly, Art was a doer. He spoke up when he saw injustice and on behalf of those who weren’t always heard. He was a ground breaker, a trailblazer—always looking for equal treatment of his fellow serviceman and women while serving in the Air Corps as well as every community he was a part of. Art retired in 1971 after serving at Vandenberg.”

After serving in the military for 28 years, Hicks retired as a missile guidance superintendent for the Titan II missile at Vandenberg. After getting out of the service, Hicks taught at Cabrillo High School for 13 years until he retired in 1984. Hicks continued to advocate education and defend equal rights for African Americans.

In 1989, one of Hicks’ proudest achievements was desegregating African Americans in locals Elks lodges. Afterwards, Hicks founded the Central Coast chapter of Tuskegee Airmen and served as the Chair of the National Scholarship Tuskegee Airmen Selection Committee.

“As a Tuskegee Airman, my father, along with other Tuskegee Airmen, was an invited guest to Senator Barack Obama's Presidential Inauguration as the 44th president of the United States of America,” said Joyce Hicks. “On Jan. 20, 2009, for the first time in my life, I witnessed my father weeping. My father said something to me that moved me to tears. He said to me, 'Joyce, it was because I never thought that I would see an African American man be elected as president of the United States.’”

Hicks’ legacy lives on in the military and local communities he cherished and cultivated throughout his lifetime.

“Art will be greatly missed, but his service to protect our nation and his work to ensure our country lives up to its values will live on,” said Carbajal. “Art was a true American hero, a distinguished public servant, a trailblazer, and a role model for all of us--rest in peace Art.”

At a later date, a funeral and interment will be held at Arlington National Cemetery.