Wednesday, February 23, 2011

I Carry Both Their Names and Their Pride: Honoring My Grandfathers During Black History Month

During Black History Month we celebrate great men and women of African descent who have contributed to the betterment and equality of African Americans and all citizens of this country, for their contributions have impacted us across race and gender lines. We’re all familiar with Medgar Evers, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Thurgood Marshall, and other phenomenal individuals who championed equality and civil rights.
But when I think about giants who fought for justice while reaching out to help their fellow man, two names always come to mind—Reverend W. G. Hickman, my paternal grandfather, and James Thomas Trice, my maternal grandfather. I carry their both names and their pride.

Granddaddy Hickman, (Willie Gray, as his family called him) was a powerful man. He was one of the first black male teachers at the local high school I attended, he was instrumental in helping to start the Voter's League in my hometown, and he was president of the local NAACP chapter for many years. Granddaddy was also a pastor, and boy could he preach! As a child I remember sitting in the pew at his church and listening to his thunderous voice as he delivered his sermon. (I would later do the same with my own father). He marched with Dr. King, and he championed the rights of underserved and underrepresented citizens. He was a business owner and community leader. Granddaddy stood up and spoke out during a time when it was dangerous for a black man to do so, especially in the South. He staged the first sit-in (and took my father with him when my Dad was just a small boy, setting an early example for him) at a restaurant in my hometown that refused to serve black people. He was an “agitator” (I love it!) who stood his ground and fought for what was right. He was proud and fearless, and I greatly admire him for his determined spirit.

James Trice was one of the best men I’ve ever known. Granddaddy James had what people called “the gift of gab.” He could talk to anyone about anything! I remember having conversations with him that lasted for hours…and that’s a really long time when you’re a kid! He was smart and wise, and he loved his family with a deep, unwavering passion. He was a man of honor, integrity, and kindness. Granddaddy James served honorably in the U.S. Army during World War II, and then worked for the federal government for 37 years before retiring. He was a member of the Masons, Shriners, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and he volunteered in his community. I always knew that he was a great man, but it wasn’t until his funeral that I realized the powerful impact he’d had on his community. His home going service lasted for several hours because person after person stood up and gave testimony about the good deeds he’d done over the years. From taking food out of his refrigerator to feed his neighbors, to physically saving one young man’s life, my granddaddy helped people whenever he could. And it’s ironic because for a man who loved to talk, he never breathed a word about his selfless acts of kindness. He just went about the work of being a good human being. His heart was so big, and I miss him so much.

Both of my grandfathers taught me valuable lessons about strength, determination, and kindness. No, they weren’t perfect men, but they were solid men. They stood tall in their deeds and beliefs. They provided for their families and were responsible citizens. And I’m confident in saying that their communities were better places because they had lived in them—what a lasting legacy! My two grandfathers are the yardstick by which I measure greatness, and that’s why I celebrate them during Black History Month.

I believe we all know unspoken hero’s—those individuals who’ve made a difference, touched a life, or fought for what was right. During Black History Month and every month thereafter, let’s honor these hero’s by remembering them, talking about them, sharing their stories, and celebrating their deeds. Who are the people in your family that deserve to be recognized and honored? I challenge you to tell their story…it just might inspire someone!


  1. Your grandfathers sound like such great men! No wonder you turned out to be such a great person! I loved reading your story!

  2. I love it Trice. That is great history!!! I think about my grandfather. God has kept him hear for 85 years. When the doctors told us to give up on him my aunties and uncles said NO. I'm glad they listened to God's voice because he is doing a lot better. He isn't on the respirator anymore and they took the trach out of his throat!!! Sorry, didn't mean to write this much.

  3. Thanks so much, Cheryl! What a sweet thing to say. My grandfathers were great men, each special in their own way. They inspired their children and their children's children, to always strive for the best. I miss them.

  4. @Yolanda~Thanks! I'm so glad your grandfather is doing better and that your Aunts and Uncles fought for him. He is blessed to have you all in his life. It's not over until God says so. I think the power of prayer, love, and faith is just phenomenal!! I'll keep your family in my prayers. Thanks for sharing and inspiring!