There are just certain things that take you by surprise... the Challenger explosion in 1986 or the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Both hit all of us like a " ton of bricks". The passing of longtime Channel 20 Anchor Don Hickman was one of those things Central Illinoisians just did not expect to happen this weekend. I was at home talking about the old days with my wife and sis-in-law and how I watched Don on the 20 News. Then I received a text saying that Don Hickman has died... when I saw the text at first glance, I could not believe what I was looking at. I was hoping I was dreaming all of this but it was all real. Around 1995 or thereabouts, Hickman had open-heart surgery and was off the air for a time. We in the viewing audience were getting concerned on why Don wasn't on the air. I had a dream during this time that Hickman had died then. I woke up from this dream that seemed so real to me at the time but once I came to my senses, I knew it was only a dream and thankfully so. In 2001, after being in the Channel 20 anchor chair since 1972, Hickman retired as anchor, that was a sad day too... a day we all knew would come but not prepared for.
In 2003, Hickman decided to run for Mayor and that's how I got to know Don when I was News Director at Student and Community station WQNA 88.3 FM. I interviewed Hickman and the other mayoral candidates from that campaign on my old Springfield Live midday show where I asked not just your usual campaign questions but I asked about the early years and how he came to Springfield in 1972, and as they say the rest is history. I enjoyed that conversation so much that after the election, which was won by Tim Davlin, that I asked Don about appearing on my evening show, WQNA Springfield Tonight at least twice a year to do a segment called " The Hickman Factor" where I asked his opinions on various local, state, national and sometimes international issues. I told my listeners to " Gather 'round your radios" as I interduced the Hickman Factor to listeners. Don always got a chuckle out of that one. I always enjoyed our conversations and wished I had more time on-air to discuss things. As I watched him on television, that inspired me to go into broadcasting and my dream of being a newsman. For five years, I lived that dream of being a newsman on WQNA and having Hickman on my show from time to time was some of the greatest moments of my 15-year broadcasting career.
We will all miss him here in Springfield and Central Illinois for all the contributions he made, not just as a newsman but as a leader in the community. Springfield & Central Illinois is a better place because of Don Hickman. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Hickman family. He will be missed by all in Central Illinois.