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Originally published August 20, 2012 at 4:47 PM | Page modified August 21, 2012 at 9:55 AM

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Corrected version

Adieu to George Hickman, war hero and sports ambassador

George Hickman, who passed away over the weekend, was a hero as a Tuskegee Airman and a smiling fixture over the decades for those attending Seattle athletic events.

Seattle Times Editorial

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George Hickman was an inspiration. He was a hero to those who knew he was an original Tuskegee Airman. He was a smiling fixture over the decades for those attending Seattle athletic events.

Hickman died over the weekend at age 88. It will be a long time before we forget him.

College football and NFL players, coaches and fans grew used to Hickman's presence at Husky Stadium and Edmundson Pavilion. A highlight of his dedication to local sports came last November when he raised the 12th Man flag at the start of a Seahawks game.

But before Hickman was a dependable smile at Husky and Seahawks games, he was an American hero and pioneer. Hickman earned his wings as one of the Tuskegee Airmen -- the first African-American pilots to fly in World War II.

In 2007, Hickman and other Tuskegee airmen were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation's highest civilian honor.

On a chilly January morning two years later, Hickman was in Washington, D.C. wearing his navy-blue Tuskegee Airmen uniform and sitting in a special section watching the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

Hickman's UW co-workers donated more than $2,100 to send him and a grandson to the ceremony.

The president told The Associated Press he owed Hickman and other Tuskegee airmen a debt of gratitude. The moment was not lost on Hickman either. The grandson of slaves who grew up to help break the color barrier in the U.S. flying forces watched another man break the color barrier to the nation's highest public office.

Seattle bids adieu to the man known for his military heroics and his everyday kindness and commitment to local sports.

Corrected version

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