Henderson native Eddie Hicks died Monday, Oct. 31.
Hicks gave back to his hometown in many ways, and he was a long-time employee with the Henderson-Vance Recreation and Parks Department. He also partnered with local programs, including Gang Free, Inc., to help young people in the community.
Hicks had said his own life had been influenced by coaches and teachers, as well as his parents. “I couldn’t have been successful (without them). I wouldn’t be who I am right now if it were for (those) folks,” he said in a December 2021 interview with WIZS to talk about having a shelter named in his honor at Fox Pond Park.
The Edward James Hicks Shelter was dedicated in a ceremony on July 29 of this year. “It really means everything to me – it really does,” Hicks said in that 2021 interview. “It brought tears to my eyes,” he said, when he learned that Shelter #1 would be renamed in his honor.
Kendrick Vann, director of the recreation and parks department, spoke with WIZS News Monday and said Hicks was so much more than a parks and rec employee – he was Vann’s godfather.
“He touched so many lives,” Vann said. “He took me on as a godson – that’s how I became a New York Giants fan,” he added, referring to Hicks’s stint with the NFL team.
Hicks was successful, by all accounts. His prowess on the football field as a Vance Senior High Viking got him noticed by college scouts and he earned a scholarship to play at East Carolina University.
He still holds the ECU record for longest rushing yard play – 95 yards. Hicks went on to play professional ball with the New York Giants and he was inducted into the ECU Hall of Fame in 2014.
When his pro career ended, Hicks returned home and picked up at parks and rec, where he had worked as a teenager and as a college student during the summer. His love of community and the desire to give back continued throughout the rest of his life, fueled by the memories of the mentors who had helped him as a youngster.
“Eddie loved the entire community,” said Gang Free, Inc. founder Melissa Elliott. She told WIZS News Monday that Hicks worked “tirelessly to make sure everyone was OK. Eddie was a true hero, leader and the epitome of a servant. Eddie loved God and it showed through his actions,” she said.
Mary Davis Royster Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements, Vann noted. Hicks is survived by his wife, Jackie, daughters Jennifer and Karen, and five grandchildren.
“There were so many people who loved Eddie Hicks back then, Hicks said in that December 2021 interview as he reflected on his early years growing up in Henderson. “And I appreciate it.”
The community will feel the loss and remember the compassion Hicks showed to everyone he interacted with.