SM3c Arthur Lee Hickman,

Unknown Sailor

SM3c Arthur Lee Hickman

A week after he turned 17, Arthur Lee Hickman took a test to join the Navy. The Navy was his path out of Coin in southwest Iowa and what had been a difficult childhood.

He was born Aug. 2, 1920 to Arthur Stanley Hickman, a farmer, and Anna Haynes Hickman, a homemaker. 

That winter his father and an uncle shot and killed a sheriff’s deputy who pursued them after they committed armed robbery of men gathered to play craps. They were sentenced to life in prison, though within the year the uncle escaped and was never heard from again.

The women of Coin, then a town of 600, gathered food for Mrs. Hickman and her five young children. “Mrs. Hickman seems like a very nice woman and the children are nice little tots,” the Page County Democrat said.

The family attended Mr. Hickman’s trial in August 1921, and when it ended three men took to the streets of Atlantic, Iowa, and collected $40 in donations for the mother and children. The Des Moines newspaper described the family as destitute.

For at least two years in the late 1920s, Page County paid Mrs. Hickman a widow’s pension of $2 a week for each child. That’s the same as about $28 in 2019 dollars. Mrs. Hickman also went to work — the 1930 Census described her as a washerwoman in a private home. 

The oldest daughter, Ethel, graduated from high school in 1932 and moved to Indiana to work. She died of pneumonia in 1937.

The oldest son, Lester, joined the Civilian Conservations Corps, a Depression-era federal jobs program, in 1935. A second son, Howard, joined the Navy in 1939 and served throughout World War II. He later named a son Arthur Lee in honor of his youngest brother.

Arthur Lee Hickman, known as Lee, played football and basketball at Coin High School and graduated in May 1937.

He was one of many who left far southwest Iowa in the depths of the Depression. Coin lost 15 percent of its population in the 1930s.

Mr. Hickman officially enlisted in the Navy in October 1937. He was 21 years old and a signalman and petty officer third class on the U.S.S. Arizona when he was killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941.

Sources: The Clarinda (Iowa) Herald Journal; Page County (Iowa) Democrat; Quad-City (Iowa) Times; Des Moines (Iowa) Tribune; Census; Iowa World War II Service Application; death certificates. This profile was researched and written on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.
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