Fort Valley State University is saddened to announce the passing of retired agricultural education professor Dr. Ira Hicks Jr. on Wednesday, Jan. 13.
"The Wildcat family mourns the loss of a beloved member who dedicated a great deal of his life to the education and service of others," said President Paul Jones. "Dr. Hicks was a true committed leader and supporter of our institution. He will be greatly missed."
Dr. Hicks began attending Fort Valley State College in 1945, paying his tuition with money he earned from picking apples over the summer in New York with his uncle. The Macon County, Georgia, native graduated from FVSC in 1949 with a bachelor’s degree in science. Dr. Hicks was in the first graduating class after the College of Agriculture’s four-year agricultural education program was initiated.
Dr. Hicks began his professional career as a vocational agriculture instructor in Georgia before being drafted into the U.S. Army. He was subsequently stationed in Germany during the Korean War until his honorable discharge with an OCC medal following a tank explosion in 1953.
Dr. Hicks would return to his instructor position, completing a 22-year career as an instructor in Elberton, Georgia, before joining the staff at FVSC in 1971.
He received his Doctor of Education from Virginia Polytechnic Institute in 1976. In addition to his position as an agricultural education professor, he served as associate director for instruction at FVSC. Hicks also served as a Peach County commissioner from 1989-2000 and was the board’s chairman his last term.
In 2010, Fort Valley State University employees, county commissioners, city council officials, family and friends gathered to honor Dr. Hicks with a ceremony for the name change of University Boulevard, which runs along the southwest side of FVSU, to Ira Hicks Boulevard.
“Service is the rent that one pays for living. That’s a statement that I have made for a number of years and I really believe that a person has the opportunity to serve if he pleases or she pleases,” Hicks said. “I think if a person doesn’t serve, then that person is behind on his rent to life.”
Further recognition for his unwavering service, in 2018, officials representing Georgia Agricultural Education presented Hicks with a cabin named in his honor at Camp John Hope, a 226-acre facility in Fort Valley serving Georgia youths for more than 90 years.
Casey Shumate, camp manager, said during that time, “We thought that it was so very fitting that he be honored with a cabin with his name on it to continue the legacy that he has left here at Camp John Hope for many years to come.”
Hicks first visited the camp while in high school in 1944 to compete in a vocational agriculture quiz competition. In January 1946, he and other students helped move some surplus barracks from Fort Benning, Georgia, to Camp John Hope, a significant upgrade in living quarters.
Moreover, for the last 20 years, Dr. Hicks and FVSU agricultural education professor Dr. Curtis Borne annually present the Ira Hicks Outstanding Agricultural Education Award at FVSU’s Agri-Demic Forum to a student majoring in agricultural education. Borne, who has served in his position for 32 years, said Hicks impressed him so much when he first met him that he accepted the offer to become a faculty member at FVSU in 1989.
Dr. Hicks served on various regional and national committees, including the Minority Concerns Committee of the American Vocational Association (AVA) from 1980-1983 and the Auditing Committee of the American Association of Teacher Educators in Agriculture (AATEA) from 1980-1982. He also served as a referee for articles for the Journal of the AATEA from 1978-1979. In 1966, Hicks served as president of the Georgia Vocational Agriculture Teachers Association (Black Association). Under his leadership, a course in Small Gasoline Engines began at Washington Street High School in Quitman, Georgia. This led to vocational agriculture departments across Georgia implementing the course.
Dr. Hicks also served on the Fort Valley State University Board of Directors from 1986 to 1988. He was a member of the FVSU Foundation, serving as treasurer for several years. In 2001, he was inducted into the Fort Valley State University Alumni Hall of Fame.
Other honors presented to Dr. Hicks include service awards (10 years and 20 years) in 1959 and 1969 and a Distinguished Service Award (25 years of service in vocational agriculture) in 1979. He also received the Honorary Modern Farmer Degree (State New Farmers of America Degree) in 1961, Honorary Superior Farmer Degree (National NFA Degree) in 1964 and the Honorary Georgia Planter Degree (State Future Farmers of America Degree) in 1977.
Dr. Hicks will lie in repose at Fort Valley State on Friday, Jan. 22, from noon to 4 p.m. in the Pettigrew Auditorium. Due to COVID-19 guidelines, physical distancing will be practiced, and masks are required at all times.
Funeral services are Saturday, Jan. 23, at 1 p.m. at Willow Lake Memorial Gardens in Fort Valley, Georgia.