DeWitt Hicks is remembered as a civil servant, accomplished lawyer
DeWitt Hicks was born in Memphis, but grew up in Sledge in the Mississippi Delta, where he was valedictorian of his senior class and an All-Delta basketball player. He grew up with country music star Charlie Pride and considered him a friend.
But Hicks never left any doubt about what he considered his hometown.
“He loved Columbus and Lowndes County and did so much for the community,” said Nancy Carpenter, executive director of the Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau. “He was very proud of our community and the work he did.
Hicks, an accomplished attorney who served as both a city judge and city attorney and served on the CVB board of directors for 25 years, died Wednesday at his home. He was 89 years old.
“It would be easy to describe him as an officer and a gentleman,” said Shannon Bardwell, who worked as Hicks’ legal assistant for more than 20 years, noting that Hicks served as an Army bomber pilot. air between graduating from Mississippi State and leaving for law school at Ole Miss.
“He loved talking about his time in the military and telling me stories about that part of his life,” said Kathy Miller, who had served as Hicks’ secretary since 2010.
It is Hicks’ gentle demeanor that those who knew him best remember most.
“He was very pleasant to work for him,” Miller said. “He was simply the kindest, most generous man I have ever worked for.”
“He was a gentleman,” Carpenter said. “Whether as chairman of the board (2012 to 2019) or as a member of the board, he had a way of bringing people together. He used his excellent legal mind to go through the details of each case brought before the board and explain the process and what it would mean. But he never tried to tell anyone how to vote.
During his six decades at Columbus, Hicks served in a multitude of capacities.
“When you look at all of the positions he held, every single one of them involved helping Columbus and Lowndes County,” Carpenter said.
In addition to his work as a judge, city attorney, and CVB board member, Hicks has also served as president of the Columbus-Lowndes Economic Development Authority, president of United Way of Lowndes County and Kiwanis Club, member of the Palmer Home for Children’s Board of Trustees and in a variety of leadership roles in his church, First United Methodist.
He played a major role in the town’s pilgrimage event where, with his 66-year-old wife, Grayce, he opened his home, Rosewood Manor, as part of the Homes Tour for 42 years until the the house went on sale in 2019. The Hickses was one of the few Pilgrim owners to open their home for year-round viewings.
“As important as Pilgrimage was in his life, he supported all of the events and programs we run through Visit Columbus,” Carpenter said. “He was so proud of the variety of events we had. He and Grayce went to all the events. He always thought it was important for board members to attend events, support them and always encourage the board to participate.
Hicks was also dedicated to the practice of law.
A founding partner of the firm of Gholson, Hicks and Nichols, Hicks was consistently ranked among the state’s top attorneys and served as president of the Mississippi Bar Association. At the time of his death, he was one of the most active attorneys in the state.
“I always seemed to be on the opposite side of him in court,” said Columbus City Attorney Jeff Turnage, who practices law for the Mitchell, McNutt and Sams law firm. “Let’s just say he was a worthy opponent.”
“I was trying to think about the last time he came into the office,” Miller said. “It was either March or May, somewhere around that time. But even though his health was declining, he always had in mind that he would recover and return to the office. I spoke to him two or three times a week until Monday. Each time, he spoke of his excitement at the idea of returning to the office.
Even as senior partner, Hicks was generous with his time, said Columbus native Lydia Quarles, who now practices law in Starkville.
“When I graduated from Alabama Law School in 1978, I returned to Columbus and worked for DeWitt, first as a clerk, then, after passing the Mississippi bar. , as a lawyer until 1981,” Quarles said. “He was the senior associate I was assigned to and I was the bottom person on his totem pole, you could say. He really taught me how to practice law, manage things and respond appropriately. I’m probably a little hotter than him. I remember him re-reading the letters I had planned to send and, in his gentle way, he said, “Why don’t you sleep on it before you send it?” It was good advice. »
“He was kind, patient, wise, determined and fair,” Bardwell said. “A local mortgage banker described DeWitt as the last of the gentlemen’s lawyers. I will miss him terribly.”
Carpenter said Hicks leaves behind a long and accomplished legacy.
“He will be remembered as a good lawyer, but also a good Christian,” Carpenter said. “He will be remembered as a man who loved his family, fought for his country, loved his country. He loved his state and he especially loved Columbus and Lowndes County and always wanted the best for the community and worked hard to get those things.
Slim Smith is a columnist and editor for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]
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