George Hickman, a longtime and respected usher at University of Washington and Seahawks games, has died.
Hickman died over the weekend, according to the UW Athletics Department. He was 88-years-old.
Hickman was one of the last living Tuskegee Airmen, the first black pilots to fly for the U.S. military during World War II.
"Things will be a little different right before we go out on the court not being able to shake the hand of George Hickman," tweeted UW men's basketball coach Lorenzo Romar. "He was one of the most inspirational men that I have ever met."
"George Hickman will be missed. He represented the UW and the Tuskegee Airmen with class. I will always appreciate how he treated my family," added UW football coach Steve Sarkisian.
The grandson of slaves, Hickman nurtured an interest in aviation as a curious boy gazing up at the sky above St. Louis.
That passion evolved from buying cheap model airplanes to joining the segregated pilot training program in Tuskegee, Ala., and later to a nearly three-decade long career at Boeing in Seattle.
He served in the Army Air Corps from 1943-45, which trained African Americans to fly and maintain combat aircraft, and was part of the graduating class of 1944, according to an Army profile. He graduated from the airman program as a crewman and served in Europe as a flight mechanic during WWII.
"There was nothing better in the world. In that biplane, the guy wires between the wings were like musical instruments," he told the News Tribune of Tacoma in a 2011 interview.
But he also recalled in a 2009 Associated Press interview the humiliation of being pushed off sidewalks in the South and spit at while in uniform.
As a cadet captain, he was effectively blocked from flying when he called out white superior officers for the mistreatment of a fellow black cadet. "I felt like I had really been mistreated," he told the AP.
In 1955, he met and married his wife in Amarillo, Texas, while volunteering with her mother at a local library, according to an Army profile.
Doris Hickman was drawn to her husband's character when they first met. "He was just a wonderful man," Doris Hickman said Monday of her husband.
He moved to Seattle in 1955 to work for Boeing as a B-52 engineering training instructor and executive in the aerospace division, according to the News Tribune. He retired in 1984.
Fans grew to know Hickman in the stands at UW football, basketball, softball and soccer games, eventually joining the Seahawks staff as well.
Last season, Hickman raised the "12th Man Flag" at a Seahawks game.
In February of this year, Hickman and his fellow Tuskegee Airmen were honored at Tyee Park Elementary School.
He attended the inauguration of President Barack Obama in 2009 and received the Congressional Gold Medal with other Tuskegee Airmen in 2007.