Bogalusa, Louisiana, January 19, 2012 – Early Monday on the morning of January 16, 2012, at approximately 3AM, the daughter of Civil Rights icon Robert Hicks heard a loud, frightening knock on the door of her family’s home in Bogalusa. Barbara Hicks Collins ran to open the front door, only to see her car exploding in flames.
By noon — on the official day honoring Dr Martin Luther King — fire marshals determined that in addition to the destroyed car, the burned roof on the top of the Hicks home had been an attempt to burn the house down. Louisiana’s Fire Marshal Office of Chief Investigations Donald Carter said early Tuesday that the fire was intentionally set, and is under investigation as a racially motivated hate crime.
The fact that the 2012 fire was intentional is better understood by knowing the legacy of Robert Hicks. Civil Rights lion Robert Hicks, who died at 81 years of age in 2010, played a pivotal role in Louisiana’s Civil Rights movement during the 1960’s and beyond. His legal victories helped to topple segregation in Bogalusa (known as “Klantown, USA”) and change discriminatory practices throughout the South.
Robert Hicks is remembered for his role as a founder of the Bogalusa Chapter of Deacons for Defense and Justice, established to protect his family and unarmed civil rights demonstrators from the Klu Klux Klan. The following is an account from an April 2010 New York Times obituary for Robert Hicks:
On February 1, 1965, Hicks received a call to say the KKK was coming to bomb Robert Hicks’s house. .. The Klan was furious that Mr. Hicks, a black paper mill worker, was putting up two white civil rights works in his home. It was just six months after three young civil rights workers had been murdered in Philadelphia, Mississippi. Mr. Hicks and his wife, Valeria, made phone calls. They found neighbors to take in their children, and reached out to friends for protection (including Deacons from African American nearby churches). Soon, armed black men materialized……(Weeks later), Mr. Hicks took the lead in forming a Bogalusa chapter (of the Deacons for Defense), recruiting many of the men who had gone to his house to protect his family and guests…..
Mr. Hicks’s role in the civil right movement also included leading daily protests for months in Bogalusa to demand rights guaranteed by the 1964 Civil Rights Act. 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.
Decades later, on October 24, 2007, a fire destroyed the Hicks family Bogalusa home. There was no investigation of that fire, just a report stating that the fire was of “undetermined cause.” The family rebuilt the home at the same location. Four years later, there is no question that this January 2012 fire was intentional and a hate crime.
The family of Robert “Bob” Hicks, including his wife of 62-years Valeria Hicks, daughter Barbara Hicks Collins, and son Charles (Chuck) Hicks are very active in keeping the legacy of Mr. Hicks alive. Valeria Hicks and Barbara Hicks Collins continue to live in the Bogalusa family home that was threatened by arson on Monday January 16.
In 2010, the Hicks family established a “Robert ‘BOB’ Hicks Foundation for Human and Civil Rights.” Daughter Barbara Hicks Collins gives presentations throughout the region on the legacy of her father, the Civil Rights movement, and is continuing to document her father’s history for this generation and generations to come. Son Charles (Chuck) Hicks is a prominent community and labor activist in his Washington DC home, founder of numerous organizations. On August 28, 2010, 48 years after King’s March on Washington, a street in Bogalusa was named after Robert ‘BOB” Hicks.
The family of Robert Hicks requests that what happened on January 16, 2012 be told in newspapers and other media outlets throughout the nation, and continue to be investigated. Wife Valeria Hicks states: “I’m so grateful to God that we are unharmed. I am truly heartbroken that there are people so misguided….They really need someone to love them. If I was near them, I’d give them a hug.”
Daughter Barbara Hicks Collins reflects the courage of the Hicks family: “I am deeply saddened, disappointed and shocked that this sort of attack still exists…….I will do my best to remain strong in recovering from this devastating hate-crime in a manner that remains positive and hopeful. Yes, it was frightening; however, I refuse to live my life in the shadow of fear, hatred and ignorance—ever”.
For more information, contact: Barbara Hicks Collins, Tel: 1-985-732-7449, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Back-up: Chuck Hicks: 202-202-421-8608 email@example.com
This press release was prepared by:
Joni Eisenberg, WPFW Pacifica Radio, 89.3FM, Washington DC
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