SEATTLE -- George Hickman, one of the original Tuskegee airmen and a longtime usher at University of Washington and Seattle Seahawks games, has died at age 88.
His wife, Doris, confirmed Monday that he died early Sunday morning in Seattle.
Hickman was one of the country's first black military pilots and ground crew members who fought in World War II.
In 2007, he and other Tuskegee airmen traveled to Washington, D.C., to receive the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor that Congress can give. In 2009, he attended President Barack Obama's inauguration as a special guest.
Hickman was a beloved figure at Seattle sporting events, and could often be seen shaking hands and hugging fans and athletes. He personalized the often anonymous job of ushering, and most regulars to UW games knew him by first name. Many athletes came to expect hugs, handshakes or pats from him before games.
"Things will be a little different right before we go out on the court not being able to shake the hand of George Hickman," UW basketball coach Lorenzo Romar tweeted Monday.
Romar recalled Hickman at games, doling out handshakes and encouraging words even when the team wasn't doing well.
"He is a guy that if everyone came forward and said how he touched their lives we would probably fill up that arena," Romar said, adding: "He helped make history. He helped put African-Americans on the map in the military."