Historic Hicks house vandalized again
Published 3:56 pm Monday, March 25, 2013
Almost three years ago, shortly after Bogalusa Civil Rights leader Robert Hicks died, his 924 E. 9th St. family home, the site of historic gatherings and incidents in the 1960s, was vandalized.
Since then, the street was renamed Robert “Bob” Hicks Street in his honor.
This week the house was vandalized again, apparently by copper thieves who shot out a nearby streetlight and broke a window to gain entry, then knocked through recently repaired walls and ceilings to pull out and steal the wiring.
No one was living in the house at the time, and the vandalism was discovered by Joe Brown Thursday morning when he went to mow the lawn.
Brown called Valiera Hicks, who shared a passion for the Civil Rights cause and an inclination to act on that passion with her husband, and their daughter Barbara Hicks-Collins, who is working to continue the family contributions through the Robert Hicks Foundation.
After the previous incident, the two had spoken of preserving the home and including a small museum. Their interest has been renewed.
“This is an indication that we’ve got to move forward in getting the house declared an historical site,” Hicks-Collins said as she walked through rooms with now-damaged refinished walls and holes in some ceilings, where work on the floors was in progress.
She said she plans to call on Sen. Ben Nevers, Rep. Harold Ritchie, Mayor Charles Mizell, representatives of the Museums of Cassidy Park and others for guidance and assistance.
The old wooden house, where the Hicks family lived during the height of the Civil Rights era, was a meeting place for local leaders as well as a safe place for Civil Rights activists from outside states. Dick Gregory, James Farmer, James Merritt and others all stayed under its roof. It was the birthplace of the local Deacons for Defense and Justice, Hicks-Collins said.
The house has sat vacant, steeped in the lingering energies of its past, for years. The paint has faded and many of the windows that were not compromised by vandals are boarded shut, but the structure appears to be generally intact.
The Hicks family does not want the place of such memories to deteriorate.
“Maybe the people who broke into the Hicks’ house and vandalized it don’t remember or even know Robert ‘Bob’ Hicks nor the contributions or sacrifices he and so many others made for all the people of Bogalusa,” said Hicks-Collins. “Maybe they did not get the message about ‘doing the right thing, just because it is the right thing to do.’ Maybe the people who committed this crime didn’t know how he fought for their rights for better housing when he filed a suit on behalf of the people of Washington Parish.
“If they knew, then perhaps they would not violate his house because he cared and fought for better housing for them. If they knew, maybe they would respect what went on inside and outside of the very house where decisions were made to help open the doors of opportunities for a better future for them and their children.”
The house has a true significance in the history of Bogalusa and should be preserved, she said.
“The work of the Hicks Foundation is not done until the history, is told and told and told to this generation,” Hicks-Collins said. “It is now time to ask for the support of the community to join with us as we embark on a project to make the Hicks location a historical landmark, restore the home to the way it was during the 1960s, turn it into a small historical museum and educate the people of the parish, state and the world, about its history so people will gain appreciation. That is our goal.”
In response to the recent vandalism, Valiera Hicks was characteristically moved.
“When negative things like this happen, it doesn’t deter me,” she said. “It just makes me stronger and more determined to move forward.”
Her daughter agreed.
“The people of Bogalusa have made me stronger and now I am unstoppable when it comes to preserving, educating and recording this history for this generation and others to come,” she said.
Inclusion on the Historical Register might even help protect the house from vandals by making grant funding available for security, Hicks-Collins said.
To support the project, call her at 732-7449.