Monday, April 26, 2010

"They stood up like men." Robert Hicks, a leader of the Deacons for Defense and Justice, has passed away.

Robert Hicks in 1965, the year of a sit-in by blacks at a cafe in Bogalusa, La., where he lived. (NYT)

David Codrea emailed me the sad news with a link to his obit here. The New York Times obituary:

Robert Hicks, Leader in Armed Rights Group, Dies at 81


Published: April 24, 2010

Someone had called to say the Ku Klux Klan was coming to bomb Robert Hicks’s house. The police said there was nothing they could do. It was the night of Feb. 1, 1965, in Bogalusa, La.

The Klan was furious that Mr. Hicks, a black paper mill worker, was putting up two white civil rights workers in his home. It was just six months after three young civil rights workers had been murdered in Philadelphia, Miss.

Mr. Hicks and his wife, Valeria, made some phone calls. They found neighbors to take in their children, and they reached out to friends for protection. Soon, armed black men materialized. Nothing happened.

Less than three weeks later, the leaders of a secretive, paramilitary organization of blacks called the Deacons for Defense and Justice visited Bogalusa. It had been formed in Jonesboro, La., in 1964 mainly to protect unarmed civil rights demonstrators from the Klan. After listening to the Deacons, Mr. Hicks took the lead in forming a Bogalusa chapter, recruiting many of the men who had gone to his house to protect his family and guests.

Mr. Hicks died of cancer at his home in Bogalusa on April 13 at the age of 81, his wife said. He was one of the last surviving Deacon leaders.

But his role in the civil rights movement went beyond armed defense in a corner of the Jim Crow South. He led daily protests month after month in Bogalusa — then a town of 23,000, of whom 9,000 were black — to demand rights guaranteed by the 1964 Civil Rights Act. And he filed suits that integrated schools and businesses, reformed hiring practices at the mill and put the local police under a federal judge’s control.

It was his leadership role with the Deacons that drew widest note, however. The Deacons, who grew to have chapters in more than two dozen Southern communities, veered sharply from the nonviolence preached by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. They carried guns, with the mission to protect against white aggression, citing the Second Amendment.

And they used them. A Bogalusa Deacon pulled a pistol in broad daylight during a protest march in 1965 and put two bullets into a white man who had attacked him with his fists. The man survived. A month earlier, the first black deputy sheriff in the county had been assassinated by whites.

When James Farmer, national director of the human rights group the Congress of Racial Equality, joined protests in Bogalusa, one of the most virulent Klan redoubts, armed Deacons provided security.

Dr. King publicly denounced the Deacons’ “aggressive violence.” And Mr. Farmer, in an interview with Ebony magazine in 1965, said that some people likened the Deacons to the K.K.K. But Mr. Farmer also pointed out that the Deacons did not lynch people or burn down houses. In a 1965 interview with The New York Times Magazine, he spoke of CORE and the Deacons as “a partnership of brothers.”

The Deacons’ turf was hardscrabble Southern towns where Klansmen and law officers aligned against civil rights campaigners. “The Klan did not like being shot at,” said Lance Hill, author of “The Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance and the Civil Rights Movement”(2004).

In July 1965, escalating hostilities between the Deacons and the Klan in Bogalusa provoked the federal government to use Reconstruction-era laws to order local police departments to protect civil rights workers. It was the first time the laws were used in the modern civil rights era, Mr. Hill said.

Adam Fairclough, in his book “Race and Democracy: The Civil Rights Struggle in Louisiana, 1915-1972” (1995), wrote that Bogalusa became “a major test of the federal government’s determination to put muscle into the Civil Rights Act in the teeth of violent resistance from recalcitrant whites.”

Mr. Hicks was repeatedly jailed for protesting. He watched as his 15-year-old son was bitten by a police dog. The Klan displayed a coffin with his name on it beside a burning cross. He persisted, his wife said, for one reason: “It was something that needed to be done.”

Robert Hicks was born in Mississippi on Feb. 20, 1929. His father, Quitman, drove oxen to harvest trees for the paper mill. He played football on a state championship high school team and later for the semi-professional Bogalusa Bushmen.

He was known for his generosity: at the Baptist congregation where he was a deacon, he bought new suits for poor members. As the first black supervisor at the mill, he helped a young man amass enough overtime to buy the big car he dreamed of. Children all over town called him Dad, his son Charles said.

A leader in the local N.A.A.C.P. and his segregated union, Mr. Hicks was the logical choice to head the Bogalusa Civic and Voters League when it was formed to lead the local civil rights effort. He was first president, then vice president of the Deacons in Bogalusa.

Besides Valeria Hicks, his wife of 62 years, and his son Charles, Mr. Hicks is survived by three other sons, Gregory, Robert Lawrence and Darryl; his daughter, Barbara Hicks Collins; and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

By 1968, the Deacons had pretty much vanished. In time they were “hardly a footnote in most books on the civil rights movement,” Mr. Hill said. He attributed this to a “mythology” that the rights movement was always nonviolent.

Mrs. Hicks said she was glad it was not.

“I became very proud of black men,” she said. “They didn’t bow down and scratch their heads. They stood up like men.”

Every Three Percenter should read this book.


Taylor H said...

THAT is how you handle business! Wow, even Dr. King denounced them? That says a lot about a group of black people who weren't killed...

I honestly wish these figures would stay around for a bit longer, we kinda need their help.

rexxhead said...

Sadly, all good things must end.

Our comfort is that all BAD things end, too.

Kevin Patrick said...

Dr, King was only able to have his position of tactical nonviolence, because men like these were ready to stand where the rubber meets the road.

Dr. King did a great many things, and the true tragedy of the Civil Rights Era is that THESE men's names are not in our history books: or at least they weren't in mine as a child.

Hat's off to you, Mr. Hicks, hat's off.


Dan said...

A great story about a damn good man!
I don't know to what degree I can make the connection, but Glenn Beck is circulating a "Pledge of non-violence" or some such crap. He's likening it to the civil-rights movement and they way most of them operated.
It's apples and oranges.
The current state of affairs will continue if they believe that pussies like Beck are the only resistance they face.
The civil-rights movement depended on, whether they knew it or not, of the good conscience of the bulk of American society to see the raw brutality the Democrats of the day were pereptrating. Fighting back then could have been spun to make it appear they were fighting an uprising of the Black community.
I don't know if a different path would have produced a different outcome or a similar one, but I do know there is no way in hell I will be blasted with a water hose or have dogs sicced on me.
And ignoring me will be at their own peril.

FSHB said...

Just read what I could on Wikipedia - Dr. King also hesitantly used the DDJ for low key protection at later marches. There were conflicts over ideology between the DDJ and the non-violence groups but ultimately the DDJ gave the non-violence movement room to operate. Another interesting note is that the non-violence movement had very little effect short term on local policies and politics where the DDJ had huge impact and results. Longterm the non-violence movement captured the national attention and became the icon, but without the DDJ helping them there would have been little chance of longterm success.

Anonymous said...

Maybe WE should have an armed protest or two, peaceful of course, but with rifles slung and pistols on the hip.

Oh, ooops, that already happened, successfully. ;')

Maybe some of us should always be carrying, open where legal, especially where not necessarily socially acceptable. OC as a statement for Liberty and self defense.

Oh, ooops, tens of thousands of us are doing that and the numbers are growing.

Some of us are even having monthly meetings on Liberty and how to get it back. Some are getting involved and running for office...

We don't necessarily need their help, but we do need their example. It's our turn now. Adapt, improvise, overcome.

Bob Katt

aughtsix said...

"I honestly wish these figures would stay around for a bit longer, we kinda need their help."

They have already provided a fine example. All we have to do is live up to it.


Anonymous said...

America is a better place because of men like Mr. Hicks. You will be missed!!

Newark, Ohio

Anonymous said...

Well, Vanderboegh, NOW you've done it, DIRECTLY contradicted Bapu Beck & MLK's niece's portrayal of the entire civil rights movement as being a Quakeresque group of Gandhiites who'd never, EVER, resort to (gag) VIOLENCE much less even THINK about doing such a reprehensibly immoral thing. SHAME, SHAME, SHAME ON YOU, you wicked, wicked man! What future revisionist perfidy will you commit next, one wonders, perhaps that Union troops WEREN'T the altruistic & benevolent liberators of enslaved blacks, or perhaps the revelation that black Americans enriched themselves by buying/selling their own African brethren/sistren, or maybe even that the Noble Red Man of American myth was just as territorial as the eeevilll 'White Eyes' & had few qualms about driving other Noble Red Men (& women & children) off their ancient dwelling places. Given the cavalier & heartless manner you displayed toward the 2 aforementioned Eminent Persons of Goodwill, Love, Peace, Mutual Understanding, Universal Brother/Sisterhood, & Flower Power for ALL, it's likely that there's NO depth that a vile & debased personage such as yourself WON'T sink to in order to elevate himself above his demonstrable (& MUCH more attractive) bettahs. REPENT YE, Michael B. Vanderboegh, REPENT, & acknowledge your sin while ye can yet still be redeemed!

Cassandra (of Troy)

Anonymous said...

I'vebeen listeniing to Beck and his calls for MLK-non-violent pledges. Frankly, I'd forgotten about The Deacons. But I'd rather stand with The Deacons.

The way I see it, my back is at the edge of the socialist cliff, my one hand outstretched, telling the Libtard authoritarians, "Stop. No more." My other hand is on my holstered pistol, waiting to see what the Libtard's next move is.

Sorry, Glenn. I am a III-percenter, not an MLK peace marcher. I will not start the battle, but I will, with my brother & sister III-pers, to the best of my ability, do my best to end the battle.

Mike, sorry I couldn't be at the rally.

B Woodman

dennis308 said...

Mr. Hicks a Brave Man will be sorely missed.
Rest In Peace.

A fine example of Courage and Intelligence.


ScottJ said...

As I told Beck when I sent him a link to this: I only learned of the Deacons last year by way of this blog.

This is what happens when progressives write the history books.

Legal Alien said...

Mr Hicks and the Deacons would have been top notch III'pers!!!

big al said...

Hats off to Mr Hicks,and my respect to his widow who was(also) instrumental to his success.

Mike- I recall how you had this bit of history in your yet to be published work.


Skip said...

Mr. Hicks would be welcome to have my six any time.

Anonymous said...

hi folks ... just stumbled across this page ... i was reminded of the story of the klansman and the cantor, which i respectfully share here:,9171,974903,00.html