Joe Hicks at Oxford, 2015
On this Labor Day, a day dedicated to the achievements of American workers, David and I are remembering in particular the contribution of one worker: Joe Hicks, who until his untimely passing from unexpected surgical complications in Los Angeles last Sunday, was one of Project 21's most active, valued, and valuable members.
Project 21 fans and critics alike will remember Joe from his many appearances on the Fox News Channel's "The Kelly File," or from the literally hundreds, if not thousands, of radio and print media interviews Joe completed over the years. What you may not know -- although I tend to think it came through the TV and radio -- is what a gentleman Joe was. Always courteous, always helpful, always willing to go the extra mile.
A few weeks ago, I asked Project 21 members for volunteers to read a 163-page Department of Justice report on the Baltimore Police Department. Being a government report, it wasn't going to be fun reading, and I wanted it done in less than a day. It was Joe who responded.
(As the National Center's Media Director, Judy Kent, said to me after Joe's passing, "He will be sorely missed. I always appreciated working with Joe, always willing to step in at a moments notice to further the cause with his incredible insight and enthusiasm... Such a sad day...")
Time and time again, Joe was willing and able to do the research that leads to useful analysis. He had an open mind and was respectful of other points of view. Importantly, too, he had the ability to summarize the facts he learned and to zero in on and then efficiently communicate the core of an issue.
This is what millions of Americans saw him do in his most recent national TV appearances -- three appearances on the Fox News Channel's "The Kelly File" in August.
Joe pointedly asked a representative of Black Lives Matter where the group was when a nine-year-old was shot in by a black suspect.
Joe's point was that Black Lives Matter is about ideology, not black lives.
Time after time, Joe struck a chord with audiences. His comments just above were not only re-broadcast by "The Kelly File" in a second show the next day, but independently viewed over 1.6 million times on Fox's website.
That's the impact of just one of Joe's appearances, from a lifetime of appearances.
Joe Hicks testifies before Congress, 2007
Most of those watching Joe on the Fox News Channel, seeing him quoted by the Associated Press, or hearing him on hundreds, more likely, thousands, of radio programs (including his own show on KFI-AM in Los Angeles) over the years had no idea that Joe was a former liberal, even leftist.
When I said Joe had an open mind, I really meant it.
At one point, Joe was literally a card-carrying member of the Communist Party. He also joined the Black Panther Party, and at one point was communications director of the Los Angeles chapter of the ACLU.
He trained members of Cesar Chavez's United Farm Workers Union in "revolutionary theory."
But something happened along the way. As I said, Joe had an open mind, and 1994 found him engaging in a series of media debates over California's Proposition 187 with conservative Ward Connerly. Connerly favored the proposition, which banned illegal aliens from receiving non-emergency taxpayer benefits. Joe opposed it.
Joe Hicks in one of his very many media appearances
During the debates, and during conversations surrounding them, Joe was impressed by how gentlemanly Ward Connerly was. He realized that although Connerly held the opposite view, he still meant well. He decided to read some books Connerly recommended: Books by Dr. Thomas Sowell, Dr. Walter Williams, and others whose works are well-known to many readers of this blog.
And then, as they say, the rest is history. Joe converted to conservatism, and how.
We'll never know how many he converted with him, but there must have been many. Joe was good. Very good.
I invite you to watch some of Joe's videos, a small selection of which are on the National Center's YouTube page, the memorial statement issued by his employer, the non-profit Community Advocates, Inc. (all Joe's work for Project 21, including hundreds of interviews, dozens of written works, testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives [here and here] and a debate before the Oxford Union, among other contributions, was done on a volunteer basis), an article about Joe in the Los Angeles Times or a tribute to him by PJ Media's Andrew Klavan, among other tributes.
I know you will come away impressed, not just with the quality of Joe's thinking, but by his obvious care for the well-being of his fellow man. For Joe, it wasn't about the right and the left beating each other up, although he never shied away from calling things straight. It was about finding ways to make everyone's lives better. That care for his fellow man shined through, and made him more credible. One can have the best arguments in the world, but they won't be as effective if it doesn't seem like you care.
I will miss Joe tremendously. Project 21 will miss Joe tremendously. His family will miss him tremendously (not that it is my place to say). But most important of all, the United States of America will miss him tremendously.
I wish we could have kept him longer.