Hicks home a reminder of struggle

Published 12:36 pm Sunday, February 22, 2015

A myriad of parish and state government officials, along with NAACP representatives, all met at the former family home of Bogalusa Civil Rights leader Robert “Bob” Hicks for a press conference on Friday to officially recognize the addition of the residence at 924 E. Robert “Bob” Hicks to the National Registry of Historic Places.

The home was officially added on the National Registry on Jan. 20 for its significance to the region’s Civil Rights Movement and for its importance to the ethnic heritage of African-Americans.

Bob Hicks was a prominent figure in the fight for justice on local, state and national levels. The date of Friday’s press conference was significant as it was Hicks’ birthday. He would have been 86 years old. He passed away in April 2010 at the age of 81.

Parish and state government representatives took turns reading resolutions and offering proclamations. Bogalusa Mayor Wendy Perrette declared Feb. 20 as Bob Hicks Day in the city.

“Because of its significant Civil Rights contribution, this is the first permanent marker in Washington Parish on the National Register of Historic Places,” Perrette said. “It is significant because of its association with Robert ‘Bob’ Hicks. I proclaim Feb. 20 as Robert ‘Bob’ Hicks Day in the city. Today is his birthday, and it couldn’t be a better day.”

Sailor Jackson Jr. represented Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler’s office. Jackson is a native of Bogalusa. He read a proclamation signed by Schedler.

“This is a momentous occasion for our hometown,” Jackson said. “History and culture were significantly influenced at this house. It is important to the ethnic heritage of the movement. The home served as a hub for all.”

Jessica Richardson represented the Louisiana Division of Historic Preservation. Leslie Lewis represented State Sen. Ben Nevers’ office and presented a document signed by Nevers and Senate President John Alario. State Rep. Harold Ritchie was represented by Legislative Assistant Summer Sammons.

Washington Parish President Richard Thomas offered a proclamation celebrating the home on the Registry.

“We look at our present, and we’re looking toward our future.” Thomas said. “Things do look a lot brighter.”

Thomas turned to Bob Hicks’ widow, Valeira, sitting nearby.

“She deserves a lot of recognition,” Thomas said. “I represent 50,000 people, and they are all a part of this proclamation to celebrate the listing of the home.”

Bogalusa City Council representatives who attended included Teddy Drummond, Gloria Kates, Doug Ritchie, Tamira Moss-Smith, Malinda White, Sherry Fortenberry and Brian McCree. Bogalusa Voter’s League President Marvin Austin Sr. was also recognized.

Franklinton Mayor Wayne Fleming was represented by Alderman T.J. Butler. Butler quoted former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who served in the George W. Bush administration.

“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic. It takes sweat, determination and hard work,” Butler read.

Chief Deputy Mike Haley represented the Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office.

NAACP representatives included District A Vice President Levon LeBan. His district includes Washington, Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard and St. Tammany parishes.

Administrative assistant Florida Hargrove, James Davis, president of the Greater Covington Branch, East St. Tammany Branch representative Julie Adams and Washington Parish Branch President Elbert Buckley, joined LeBan.

Barbara Hicks-Collins, the eldest Hicks daughter, offered some poignant remarks for her mother.

“We are blessed to have a living legend with us in Mrs. Robert “Bob” Hicks. She is a very soft-spoken lady, but very courageous. Your contribution will not go unnoticed,” Hicks-Collins said. “The National Park Service will educate all young people of Washington Parish. It’s permanent, Mama.”

Hicks-Collins touched on the struggle her family endured many years ago.

“Fifty years ago I lived with an ordinary family during a time Bogalusa could only dream of,” Hicks-Collins said. “Civil Rights activities changed my life. Life as I knew it was consumed by the Civil Rights Movement. This house is now recognized on a local and national level. I like it when they say it’s worthy of preservation because of the Civil Rights Movement and its association with Civil Rights leader Robert ‘Bob’ Hicks. I am proud beyond words about a house where I still recall good times. There are memories embedded in the walls of this house that no child should have to endure.”

Hicks-Collins said daily telephone calls from the Ku Klux Klan came with threats to kill Bob Hicks and burn down the house. Hicks-Collins said the home gave rise to the Deacons of Defense, an armed group of black men who vowed to protect the house and family.

“Presence of guns was always a constant reminder that they might have to be used,” Hicks-Collins said. “The house became recognized as a community hub for people to complain about their civil rights violations. Having this house will serve as a symbolic representation in history for people who fought to make a better life. It is our history and symbolic of a time we will never forget.”

Hicks-Collins said it’s time for the city to move forward.

“We can say we’ve overcome and don’t need guns,” Hicks-Collins said. “What we need is love. Having love can move this city forward.”

Her mother agreed.

“Thank you all for coming. Love is the greatest thing that you can have. Love is more powerful than hate. You all have my love,” Valeira Hicks said.