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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
Folk singer Bobby Hicks began writing songs about Florida when he was just a child. Sometimes called a "radical Cracker," Hicks performed his music all over the state, logging at least 60,000 miles a year on his brown 1979 Harley-Davidson.
TAMPA - Pay $100,000 for a condo, about 99 more than it's worth. Talk about how big and cheap and wonderful everything was up north. Well they don't give a damn about nature. They cut down the last pine tree. So if the hurricane comes tomorrow, it'll be all right with me.
People heard Bobby Hicks' message. They couldn't help it, really.
In a loud, gravely voice, he used his folk songs to rail against the forces that chipped away his beloved Florida - condo developers, politicians, polluters, phosphate dumpers, tourists, greedy corporations.
"He was on a mission to try to wake people up," said folk singer Frank Thomas. "They listened to Bobby, whether they wanted to or not."
He's been called a radical Cracker. Sometimes, his bold approach made listeners squirm. But mostly, they sang along.
"He wrote songs with a passion," Thomas said. "He wrote about this great state of Florida. He loved it, and it came across."
His family goes back five generations in Florida. As a boy, an educator named D.G. Erwin mentored Mr. Hicks, taking him fishing and hunting, and showing how phosphate dumping damaged the Alafia River.
Mr. Hicks passed down Florida stories to his son, Dawson, who has the middle name "Erwin." He was in diapers when he first heard his dad's music and started going to festivals.
"That was one of the things he always embraced," said Dawson Hicks, 24. "You can't change your heritage. You can't rewrite history. That was a big thing he always tried to show with his music."
For a few years, Mr. Hicks co-hosted the Florida Folk Show on WMNF-FM 88.5. He was selective about what music to play, and he often sparred on air with callers.
"He got right in the face of the development and the politicians, and he stood there and he blasted them," said Peter Gallagher, Mr. Hicks' Florida Folk Show co-host. "No one was a greater orator for environmental destruction than Bobby Hicks."
Mr. Hicks spent the last six months battling lung cancer, his family said, but his mind wasn't far from the local scene. He sent Gallagher text messages asking about a weekly folk show at Ka' Tiki, a club on Sunset Beach.
"He was asking me how the show went," Gallagher said. "Did a lot of people come? Who played? Just a couple nights ago."
Mr. Hicks died Wednesday morning at home in Tampa. He was 54.
I'm the Spanish moss hanging from the live oak tree. I'm what's left of the panther and the old manatee. I'm an eagle in flight, I'm the ocean's roar. I'm Florida, need I say more?
Researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Stephanie Hayes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 727 893-8857.
Born: Sept. 4, 1953
Died: Dec. 19, 2007
Survived by: Wife, Gini; son, Dawson.
Services: 2 p.m. Jan. 12 at the Beach Theater, 315 Corey Ave., St. Pete Beach.
To hear a sample of Bobby Hicks' music, visit tampabay.com