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Liberty's living legend retiring from BoE
Mattie Hicks spent life educating others
Mattie Hicks 01
One of Mattie Hicks first campaign posters
Bio vita

• Age: 87
• Hometown: Fitzgerald
• Children: Felix Hicks, Bradley Hicks, Sandra Hicks Sheffield
• Grandchild: Alvestor Sheffield
• Occupation: District 1 representative for Liberty County Board of Education
• Years as a teacher: 42 years
• Years as a BoE member: 22 years
• Hobbies: Gardening, embroidering, sewing, reading

At 87, Mattie Hicks has been lucky enough to see nearly a century unfold. An educator and politician for close to 60 years, the Liberty County resident has also made quite a bit of history herself.
Here’s a date for the local history book: Dec. 31, 2008, the day Hicks retires after 22 years on the Liberty County Board of Education.
Board Chairperson Lily Baker said her longtime colleague is a living legend.
“We are very grateful for Ms. Hicks,” Baker said. “She’s an icon in our community and a leader. She set standards we all have to follow.”
 A Georgia resident her entire life, Hicks was born in Fitzgerald and earned degrees from Georgia Southern and the University of Georgia. Soon after, she settled in Liberty County, where she taught at local schools for 42 years. Wanting to further impact her community, Hicks ran for and was elected to the county’s first school board in 1986. Never wavering in her dedication to education, she ran unopposed every election.
Now living with her daughter, Sandra Hicks Sheffield, she said looking back at her life’s work it seems like a shadow but a shadow she’s very proud of. As she looks at her picture on fliers for her 1986 BoE campaign, Hicks remembered the pressure she felt during the election.
“We had to talk about policies, and talk about what we wanted to do," she said. "Policies for the board, policies for the children, policies for graduation, policies for everything.”

Focus on education
She said not too much has changed in that sense, and most of what the board does now still involves policymaking.  The issues have changed, but one thing is still the same: The priority for educators and board members remains to encourage children to take charge of their education and life.
“We’ve got to keep them focused,” Hicks said. “If not, we're going to lose them. I try to encourage them and put it before them that you are in the driver’s seat. And most times they will take over and do a lot of things to enhance their education.”
According to those closest to her, Hicks has helped and inspire thousands of children.  And although she’s retiring and someone else will represent the 1st District for the first time, she said there’s no way she can leave the education arena completely. As long as she is breathing, she said, children will be on her mind.
“I’m excited to observe and watch what’s going to happen,” Hicks said.
Hicks often reached beyond the county to touch the lives of children. Through her years on the school board, Hicks was instrumental in writing and creating education laws and proposals that were used statewide and copied elsewhere.
Her resume includes roles in the creation of the first teachers union in Georgia and the push for the HOPE Scholarship, which has helped more than a million students get college educations.
As a board member, Hicks spent most of her time working for her constituents.
“One thing I appreciate about mother as a board member was she used to visit the churches and groups in the area to let them know what was going on,” Sheffield said. "At one point, she had a newsletter."
Hicks said it was all done in an effort to create a strong public education system, one that will benefit students, parents, teachers and administrators.
“Public education is the world,” she said, wiping tears from her eyes. “And if we don’t stay public, we’re going to lose our grip on what education means to the children and to the families.”

Believes in politics
Because of her dedication to public service, Hicks also took great interest in government at all levels. She worked closely with Jimmy Carter when he was Georgia’s governor and during his presidency.
“We were probably one of few families in Liberty County that went to Jimmy Carter’s inauguration as governor and president,” Sheffield said.
If she was a few years younger, Hicks would probably be at Barack Obama’s inauguration next month. Mention of the historical election brought a wide smile to Hicks’ face.
 “It meant a lot because it was history,” she said. “We saw history in the making.”
She said the election of this country’s first black president is an example of the strength of the American people and the power of politics, two of the things that encouraged her to start a life of public service.
“Politics,” she said. “Yeah, I believe in politics.”
At the end of her long, successful career, Hicks said she’s learned and experienced plenty, and is happy to pass along a few last powerful words of wisdom to students.
 “I’d tell them to put in all they got now,” she said. “Invest in their learning 150 percent.”


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