Cora Eiland Hicks, 94, passed peacefully on December 5th 2013. Mrs. Hicks died at A Serene Setting, an assisted living facility in Round Rock, Texas, but lived in her home until June 2013. She was born in Memphis, Tennessee on October 31st 1919 and was the daughter of Cora Mae and John Henry Eiland.
Mrs. Hicks grew up in a family that valued education and culture. Her father who received limited formal schooling was mainly self-educated and instilled in her a love of reading and a lifelong appreciation for the arts. Cora herself excelled at school and graduated as the class valedictorian and cumma sum laude from Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis, and later, graduated summa cum laude with a BA degree from Lemoyne University. After receiving her masters' degree in English at Howard University, she worked as a news anaylist at the Pentagon through the end of the second world war. She came to Austin from Washington D.C. in 1949 after accepting a teaching position at Tillotson College where she her future husband, Lee Hicks. Mrs. Hicks was subsequently employed at the University of Texas Press as an editor and proof reader. It was here that she forged many friendships that continued throughout her life. While working at the U.T. Press, Mrs. Hicks enrolled in the U.T. English department Doctoral progam where she was also employed as a teaching assistant. Because of these employments at the University of Texas, Mrs. Hicks was recognized as an historical personnage as the first African-American to have been employed in both a professional and a teaching capacity at the University of Texas. In addition, upon completion of her doctoral work at U.T., she was recognized as the first African-American woman to receive a doctoral degree from the University of Texas. Mrs. Hicks also held teaching positions at North Texas State University, Thunder Bay University in Ontario, Canada, Huston-Tillotson College and Austin Community College.
Throughout her professional life, numerous situations arose in regard to segregation in Austin and civil rights in general. Though she herself was recognized for singular achievements in segregation issues, her perspective in the fight for equal rights was that of an idealogue who railed against the notion that individual merit could be ignored and disenfranchised because of ethnicity. Even though she has passed on, those who spent time with her will always carry the memory of her eloquent verbiage sprinkled with literary references, quotations and colorful turns of phrase. Her high intellect, wonderful personality, sparkling wit and unique insights made indelible impressions on all who met her. Equally evident to those acquainted with her were her singlemindedness of purpose, conviction of opinion and strength of will in pursuit of objectives.
She often remarked that her proudest accomplishment was the raising of her two sons Gregory Alan and Eric Michael for whom she and her husband Lee were always loving and devoted parents; and, for whom every possible opportunity was provided. She instilled in her two boys the same love of education and the arts that she had received from her father. Her son Gregory is currently a Professor of Law at the University of Washington, and her son Eric and his wife Irina are professional musicians and teachers living in Austin.
Cora Eiland Hicks is preceded in death by her father, John Henry Eiland, her mother Cora Mae Eiland, her eldest brother, Ernest T. Eiland and her older brother John H. Eiland. She is survived by her husband Lee Hicks, her first son, Gregory Alan Hicks, his son Sam, his wife, Klara Shields-Hicks and their children Henry Hicks and Lee Hicks; her second son, Eric Michael Hicks and his wife Irina Chernysheva-Hicks, her brother, Arthur Eiland, his wife Ann Eiland and their children, her sister-in law Mary Pett-Eiland, and her neice Jan Eiland.
• Condolences, comments, and stories are being compiled at: www.forevermissed.com for Cora Eiland Hicks; or can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.