Sometimes — maybe too often these days — you get blindsided. Less than three weeks ago, August 10 to be exact, I was sitting next to Joe Hicks at a book dinner for our mutual friend Heather Mac Donald.
Joe and I hadn’t seen each other for a while and he looked great. He was his usual good-humored self, always ready with an incisive quip about world events.
And now he’s dead, gone from complications due to an operation, it is reported here by PR Newswire, which calls him a “community advocate.” He was that, but so much more. Community advocate sounds almost puny. As for the operation, I have no idea what it was for. He said nothing about it. But he wouldn’t. He was not a complainer.
Joe was one of the most interesting guys I had the pleasure of working with at PJ Media and PJTV, where he was the host of The Hicks File. He had a fascinating history.
A man of his times, he had been a Black Panther in his youth, but shifted right as he grew older, suffering the brickbats you might expect from old comrades even though he served as Greater Los Angeles director of Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Council.
If someone embodied the best of the civil rights movement through the years, I can’t think of anyone the equal of Joe. Nigel Innis, perhaps. Through everything that has happened to us, black and white, Joe managed to preserve the true goal of racial equality and integration, devoid of cant and race-baiting. He was one of the guardians of the true dream of MLK. BlackLivesMatter was not for this ex-Panther.
But he was so much more than an activist. He was what we used to call “a cool guy,” someone you wanted to hang with. I didn’t enough and I imagine many others reading and hearing this news are feeling the same way. When we saw each other a few weeks ago, I had meant to invite him to dinner. Sorry.
I also noticed, when reading the above-linked press release, that there were many things I didn’t know about Joe, many contributions he made to his times that I hadn’t realized. I advise others who knew him to have a look. There are surprises there.
A public memorial for Joe is planned and will be announced shortly. I will be there.
RIP Joe Hicks.