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Founder Hicks knew his history

March 08, 1999|By BRUCE HAMILTON

Early Russell Hicks was a lifelong Washington County resident who worked for the school system 50 years, 25 of which were spent at South Potomac Junior High School.

The middle school that replaced it was posthumously named after Hicks in honor of his community service.

Hicks was enthusiastic about history and frequently gave tours of Antietam Battlefield, according to his nephew, Gerald Hicks. He was a tall, stout man with a hearty laugh and a heart of gold, he said. "He was extremely generous with his time and money."

Born Feb. 15, 1892 in Rockdale, which was later renamed Hicksville, Hicks was the third of four children. He was the son of Mary Dennis Hicks and the Rev. Cadmus Metz Hicks. His grandfather, George W. Hicks, was a Washington County teacher.

When he finished school, Hicks entered military service in 1917. He served in the medical corps with the 79th Division in Europe. During World War I, he was once left for dead on the battlefield after the enemy gassed him, according to his nephew.

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Hicks graduated from Blue Ridge College. He served one term in the House of Delegates during the 1920 General Assembly. He later said he was proud to help create the Hagerstown City Park during that term.

Although he worked at South Potomac for 25 years, Hicks also taught at Surrey Boys School, Yarrowsburg, Sandy Hook, Maugansville, Fairplay and West Washington Street. As a historian, he was a sought-after speaker.

In 1956, Hicks was awarded a distinguished service award from the History Teachers Association of Maryland. He retired from teaching in 1957, going to work at the School Board's Central Office. He retired from his official duties in 1962.

He belonged to several organizations, including the Torch Club, Lions Club, Washington County Historical Society and American Historical Society. He wrote a column for this newspaper entitled, "Our County Heritage." He died in Feb. 27, 1966 at the age of 74.

As she walked by a picture of Hicks Sunday, Reatha Kline remembered the teacher she had in the 7th grade. "He was very strict, but I liked him," she said. "He knew history better than anyone I ever met."

related story:

-- School celebrates 30 years

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