In Memoriam: R. C. Hickman, 1922–2007
R. C. Hickman with Speed Graphic camera, by unidentified photographer, 1949.
The Center for American History at The University of Texas at Austin pays tribute to noted photographer, R. C. Hickman, who documented Dallas's African American community through the civil rights era. R. C. Hickman died in Dallas on December 1, 2007.
"R. C. Hickman was an outstanding photographer whose work will remain at the Center for American History as a permanent visual record of a significant transitional era in the history of the African American community in Dallas," stated Dr. Don Carleton, executive director of the Center for American History. "R. C. was always generous with his time when it came to mentoring the many young students who came to him to talk about photography. He was also my friend, and I will miss his good cheer and easy smile."
Hickman was born in the small East Texas town of Mineola in 1922. During the Great Depression, R. C.'s father moved the family to Dallas. After briefly attending Austin's Tillotson College, Hickman joined the Army. His interest in photography developed during World War II, and he soon earned credentials to become an official Army photographer. After the war's end, he returned to Dallas and began a professional career as a photographer at the Dallas Star Post, where he also worked as a salesman, and worked as a freelancer for Jet magazine, newspapers in the East, and the NAACP. His photography for the NAACP documented the inequities of school conditions in Dallas, and exposed him to dangerous conditions during the fight to end racial segregation.
Hickman donated his photographic archive to the Center in 1985. Following his donation, the Center published Behold the People: R. C. Hickman's Photographs of Black Dallas, 1949–1961, featuring Hickman's work as the unofficial photographer of the African American community in Dallas. In addition to his coverage of racial segregation, the book included Hickman's photos of such renowned figures as Martin Luther King Jr., Thurgood Marshall, Ella Fitzgerald, and Joe Louis, taken during their visits to Dallas.
The R. C. Hickman Photographic Archive consists primarily of 4" x 5" negatives created during Hickman's professional career in Dallas with the Dallas Star Post and the Express. The archive also includes Hickman's freelance work for Jet magazine and photographs documenting school segregation for NACCP court cases. In addition to photographs of Dallas news events, also included are photographs of nationally popular entertainers and Dallas nightclubs, schools and universities, funerals, and notable Dallas citizens. The majority of the photographs were created during the 1950s. A small number of contact prints and exhibition prints are also included in the photographic archive.