John H. Hicks, hired in 1949 as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s first black reporter, already had at that early career stage another future mark of distinction. As a member of the band at East St. Louis Lincoln High School, where he had played tuba, he got to jam with a guy on trumpet named Miles Davis.
Hicks, 85, died earlier this month in Washington, D.C., where he had retired. His death follows the passing last November of one of his sons, Jonathan P. Hicks, who was for many years a reporter with The New York Times covering business and politics. From today’s obituary:
In 1993, Hicks was inducted into the Greater St. Louis Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame. In a column written by Greg Freeman, Mr. Hicks recalled enrolling as a pre-journalism student at the University of Illinois. One friend jokingly asked him, “What are you going to do with a journalism degree? Work at the Post-Dispatch?”
As the Freeman column also reminded, Hicks joined the St. Louis paper at a time when ‘the number of black reporters at white-owned daily papers could be counted on two hands.’ Hicks left the Post-Dispatch in 1961 to work for the U.S Information Agency and later held State Department postings in Europe, Africa and Washington. RIP.