Dr. Fannie Frazier Hicklin still Active
after all those Years
100 Years Resilient
Dr. Fannie Frazier Hicklin at her home shortly after
Madison’s heavy rains destroyed many of her
momentos and keepsakes.
“My undergraduate major was languages, French, German and Spanish,” Hicklin recalled. “And my major professor was German. She was a very good teacher.
She certainly gave me plenty of attention. And then she kept in touch when she was no longer teaching and I had graduated. And she is the one who is responsible
for my going into speech. She contacted me one time and said, ‘There’s a new area that is developing and I think you would be interested in it.’ Here was a language
teacher talking about this new area. That’s when I went off to the University of Michigan because she had recommended that. She did not live long enough to know
about the doctorate. But she did know that I had taken her suggestion about speech.”
Hicklin is a very independent person. Even at 100-years-old, she still lives by herself, with her daughter living nearby. Yet Hicklin has accepted the kind of help in
life that made her better or allowed her to succeed and not the kind that would lead to dependence and possibly failure.
“The chairman of the speech department called me,” Hicklin said when she was struggling having just enrolled at UW-Madison. “I was not the usual graduate
student. I was older. I was so pleased that a person in his position would be interested in me. I said, ‘I really don’t know how long I will be able to stay because I left
my daughter with a friend at school and I can’t afford to impose on a friend and I don’t have the money to stay.’ He said, ‘How would you like to work at the
Wisconsin Historical Society?’ I said, ‘I don’t think I am really qualified. I’m not a history major.’ He said, ‘I think you are educable.’ And he sat there at that phone
and got me a job over at the state historical society.”
Just as others have believed in Hicklin, Hicklin has been willing to give other people their space and allow them to be who they are.
“I think treating everyone well is important,” Hicklin emphasized. “There may come a time when you feel that there is someone who doesn’t appreciate what you are
doing. So you just leave them alone. For the most part, just accept people. Each person has a different way of doing things. Some of them don’t do it quite like you
would do it. But if it isn’t hurting anyone, then I say, ‘Fine.’ But I think we ought to be careful that we aren’t hurting anyone.”
Hicklin has left people alone when she doesn’t agree with them, but she doesn’t stay stuck in the past. She is willing to let bygones be bygones and always look to
“I think I am very blessed in my life,” Hicklin said. “I don’t have any negative feelings about my past. There have been some unpleasant things. And some of the
people who were unpleasant have come to be very, very nice to me. And I think it’s because I don’t make an issue out of it. If someone is doing something that I don’
t really care for, I just avoid them. I’m not going to destroy them by telling others and being negative to them. There are too many people in the world. You don’t have
The world is a fascinating place for Hicklin. She has enjoyed traveling nationally and internationally. Her living room is adorned with dolls from far and wide. She
especially likes Japanese dolls.
“All of my travel has come as an adult,” Hicklin said. “I always had the idea that it would be nice to travel, but I couldn’t afford it. But after I was working, then I
started after one trip to see how I could do another one. For some of these, I could take mother. She always enjoyed them. In fact, her mind was so sharp that people
back at home would say she could sit down and tell you all about the midnight meals on the ship and everything. And she was no problem as an older person.
Part 2 of 2
By Jonathan Gramling
We had been planning to do this story for some time. As it turned out, our interview happened shortly after the
massive August flooding had filled Dr. Fannie Frazier Hicklin’s basement and her first floor. The side of her
house facing the street looked like student move-out day on campus. There were trash bags and destroyed
furniture lining the street. The Village of Shorewood Hills where she lives had already hauled away the first
round of trash.
Hicklin had just turned 100 years old on July 21st and she was looking as resilient as ever.
Hicklin has weathered many things in her life. And there are many things that have led to the quality of life that
she has been blessed with.
One of those is the church. When she was growing up in Talladega, Alabama, Hicklin’s father taught at
Talladega College, an integrated school and attended a church that was also integrated and where everyone
was one of God’s children. There was a special quality to that church which made its parishioners — and its
ministers committed to the church.
“One minister they had fairly recently was a graduate of Talladega College,” Hicklin said. “But he was living in
Birmingham. But he was the minister. And he would come over. And then one Sunday, he didn’t show up. And I
think he was 40-years-old or something. He had died. Well there was a retired veteran who was Baptist. He
lived in Birmingham, about 56 miles away. But he was so inspired by what this other person had done by
these people that he volunteered to serve them free, to come from Birmingham over. And he did. His wife was
a pianist and she became involved. He was coming over free and they liked him very much. And he has
remained there these many, many years. I imagine that now they are insisting that they pay him. Here he was a
stranger who lived in another town and he gave because he was so inspired by the previous minister and by
the people in the church.”
While Hicklin is straightforward and has her opinions about things, she has also listened to the advice of
others. It was that listening to others that allowed Hicklin to discover her life’s passion and career.
Surprisingly, Ariel and I never took that many trips together because some of
mine were taken in connection with organizations to which I belonged. It was
only in more recent years that she and I have taken trips. I have taken more
trips abroad than she has. I’ve been to Siberia, Russia, Romania, Vietnam,
China and Japan.”
Even at 100, Hicklin still has plans.
“At this point, I was looking forward to doing some things that I have done
before and contribute more,” Hicklin said. “I try to contribute to all of the
organizations to which I belong because I don’t think you should be a member
unless you are making whatever contribution you can make. You hear, ‘Well
my health is not so good. I have got something else. I’m giving time to my
church.’ That’s no excuse. You owe something to any organization to which
you belong. My parents were like that all of their lives. And my school taught
me that, so those things come very easy to me.”
Hicklin has been paying it forward for most of 100 years on this earth. And it is
the life that she has lived that has drawn former students back to her during
her recent time of need. It has been a wonderful life for Dr. Fannie Frazier
Hicklin, one that she continues to live with zeal and the values that God and
her parents gave her.