It is with profound sadness that Community Advocates, Inc. (CAI) announces the passing of CAI co-founder and vice-president Joe R. Hicks. Joe passed away suddenly on August 28, 2016 at St. Johns Health Center in Santa Monica after post-surgical complications.
A public memorial service is being planned and details will be disseminated shortly.
Joe was a long-time political and social commentator, community leader and civil rights activist, whose steady and courageous voice addressed a wide variety of emotional, divisive and controversial issues.
“Los Angeles has lost a brilliant Angeleno. Joe Hicks was an exemplary person who dedicated his life to activism and making Los Angeles better. I will miss him,” said former Los Angeles Mayor Richard J. Riordan, Chairman of CAI. The Los Angeles Times’ described Joe as “a redoubtable voice of local reason.”
In his role at Community Advocates, Inc., Joe continued his several-decades long leadership on the topics of race and community relations. Joe was the former executive director of the Los Angeles City Human Relations Commission, where he served from 1997 to 2001 under Mayor Richard J. Riordan. He was also the co-founder and executive director of the Multi-Cultural Collaborative, which served as an umbrella group for community-based leaders. It was created to develop programs designed to improve inter-ethnic relations in the city in the wake of the 1992 Los Angeles Riots.
In the early 1990’s, Joe was the executive director of the Greater Los Angeles chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, “SCLC,” the civil rights group formed by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. During his tenure at SCLC, Joe was also the co-chairman of The Black-Korean Alliance, the city’s oldest organization at that time dedicated to easing tensions between the two ethnic communities. Prior to joining the SCLC, Joe was the Communications Director for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Southern California chapter. Joe also served a three-year term as a member of the Board of Governors for the California State Bar, as well as serving on the California Advisory Panel to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
Born in Southern California in July, 1941, Joe began his journey in the civil rights movement as a young man during the 1965 Watts Riots in Los Angeles, initially as a militant leftist in the Black Power movement. He famously debated former Klansman David Duke on the issue of affirmative action at California State University, Northridge in 1996. By the mid-1990s, however, Joe began a lengthy re-examination of his political views that resulted in dramatically-altered political positions. Joe’s contemporary political views often stood at odds with the beliefs with which he was long associated, and for the past several years, he identified himself as an independent political conservative.
Joe was a well-respected media figure, with an ability to unflinchingly take on heated issues and bring rational and calming data and perspective to the subjects. He regularly contributed to local, national and international print and broadcast media outlets, including NPR, Southern California Public Radio, Fox News Channel, CNN, BBC, NBC, CBS and many others.
His opinion articles and interviews appeared in national and international publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, National Review andscores of others.
In the 1990’s, he was a regular co-host of the then PBS-affiliate KCET TV’s highly-regarded public affairs program Life & Times. At Community Advocates, Joe continued his collaboration with Life & Times via “The Kitchen Table,” a regular segment designed to address complex and controversial Southern California issues from multiple perspectives in layman’s terms. A former analyst and commentator for PJTV.com, he hosted The Hicks File and The Minority Report programs for the web-based media outlet. From 2005 to 2008, he also hosted the weekly Joe Hicks Show on KFI-AM in Los Angeles, the highest-rated talk station in Southern California. Joe regularly wrote for The Wide Angle, CAI’s blog, which is hosted at the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles.
In January, 2015, at the invitation of the Oxford Union, often described as “the world’s most prestigious debating society,” Joe was invited to debate the proposition, “This House believes the United States is Institutionally Racist” as one of three opponents of that proposition. In May, 2015, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the American Jewish University in Los Angeles.
David A. Lehrer, Community Advocates’ president, said, “We will remember Joe for his passion, his courage, and his commitment to truthfully assessing and unpacking complicated and difficult issues. He had a firm and unwavering moral compass that led him to be a voice of reason and righteousness. He was also a man of great warmth, charm, and humor. His memory will continue to guide and inspire us.”
Joe is survived by his children Katarina Hicks, Natasha Hicks, Jabali Hicks, Tamani Hicks-Littleton, Hasani Hicks-McGriff, his sister Annie Hicks- Roberts, his ex-spouse and friend Liz Hicks, and a number of other loving relatives and friends.