By Brandon McIntyre
On April 13, 1910, a church standing on the corner of North Queen Street in Dover, Delaware that goes by the name of “Mt. Zion AME Church” was established. Throughout the history of the church, many men and women have helped fund and care for the church, yet few are alive to tell the story of the church and their story as well. But in this interview, Clarence W. Hicks reflects on his life and the memorable moments and events he’s experienced.
Q – Where were you born and what was your upbringing like?
A – I was born on February the 2nd, 1926 on a farm between Hartly and Marydel. I had three sisters, no brothers.
Q – Can you tell us a little bit about your educational history?
A – I went to a school called “Parker’s Chapel”. My birthday came in February and I couldn’t go to school until I turned seven. It was a one-room school with one teacher teaching five or six classes. After that, my sister and I went to Wilmington, Delaware, and I went to school up there, I forget the name of the school. And then we came back to this part of Delaware, and I had an aunt named Ethel Stevens, we stayed with her for a couple of months, and finally, we moved here to Dover and I started at Booker T. Washington School. I was maybe in 6th grade when I came to Booker T. Washington. And after completing Booker T, we had to go to Delaware State College for the last two years of High School because there were no High Schools we could go to.
Q – Can you tell us about your job/education experience before what you’re doing now?
A – I was in the army once I became an adult. I registered to go back to Del State, but I couldn’t really adjust from army life back to civilian life that quick.
Q – Is this where you thought you’d be when you were growing up?
A – Not really, I didn’t even think I’d live to see 96 years.
Q – What kind of advice would you offer a student, who is undecided on his or her career path?
A – Find out what it is that you love to do, and try and turn that into a career for yourself. When I was growing up, there weren’t many opportunities outside of farming and local stuff, but today, you can do anything you want and it can make you money.
Q – How are you responding to the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus?
A – Well, my wife died the year Covid started, so in the beginning, it was hard. For the first time in over 70 years, I lost my friend. Going through it alone was hard, being inside all by yourself really took a toll on me mentally. But as time went on, I got a chance to go back to my church and meet my church family once again. That helped me a lot, knowing that there are people that still care about me. I still wear my mask when I leave the house, I try and stay away from a large group of people, that’s it really.
Q – How would you describe the state of higher education in America today?
A – I would say that it’s much more welcoming for minorities than ever. Growing up as a black kid, it was either attending Delaware State or finding a job because the University of Delaware, the one up in New Castle, wouldn’t accept black people, or any other people besides white people.
Q – Have you ever traveled outside of the United States? Where, and how does life outside compare to that in the US?
A – The minute I turned 18, I was drafted into the service. And I had to go serve the country, I served in France, Germany, and I was in service for about two and a half years.
Q – What are your plans for the future?
A – I’m 96 years old. I have accomplished what I wanted or have come to peace with the things I wasn’t able to accomplish.
Q – What does the future hold for America?
A – I’m not sure, with everything going on in the world, and the news, it’s getting hard for me to keep up. But I hope it becomes a better place when my time in this world is up.
Q – Are you interested in politics? If not, why not? What is your take on the state of politics and the future of American Democracy?
A – I have been trying to pay attention to politics a bit. Especially with the craziness going on in Ukraine. But I don’t know what the future holds for American Democracy. For me I know it’s a lot safer now than it was when I was growing up, which is a good thing.
Q – What are/were some of your hobbies and activities?
A – As a kid, I loved to go outside and play with my friends. We would go deep in the woods, trying to find certain bugs and animals. As I got older, I enjoyed spending time with my wife, who died in 2020, we were married for 73 years. As of now, I just watch football and basketball.
Q – Let us end the interview with a memorable quote from you. How would you describe yourself to the world? Complete the sentence: I am…
A – I am a God-fearing man who did everything in God’s grace.
As of today, Hicks is currently living in Dover and still attends Mt. Zion AME Church every Sunday morning. He gains a higher level of enjoyment seeing younger kids joining the church he helped build. Hicks has become a staple to the AME Church community across Delaware and hopes his contribution to his community and God will be something he’ll be remembered for.