Robert Benjamin Hicks III, 71, died at his beloved home, “Labor In Vain,” in the hills of Bingham, Tenn., near Franklin on Feb. 25, 2022.
Hicks was a New York Times bestselling author for his 2005 novel, “The Widow of the South,” in which he told a fictionalized account of the life of Carrie McGavock, matron of Carnton Plantation, to tend the graves of more than 1,500 soldiers killed in the Nov. 30, 1864, Battle of Franklin.
The book brought international attention and a flood of visitors to Franklin and the Carnton Plantation after it was published in 2005. He was named Tennessean of the Year in 2005 by The Tennessean for the impact of the novel as well as for the co-founding of Franklin’s Charge, which brought together numerous organizations in a broad-based coalition dedicated to reclaiming Franklin’s Civil War legacy through land acquisition and interpretation. Hundreds of acres have been reclaimed and Franklin’s Charge remains a vital community organization, which has raised millions of dollars through its efforts.
The National Park Service called the success in Franklin “the largest battlefield reclamation in North American history.”
In a film produced by Visit Franklin Films, Hicks said, “Learning from history is the best way not to repeat it and Franklin offers the world one of the great history lessons. It is a lesson about how people make huge mistakes, but it is also a lesson about how, again, very ordinary people become very extraordinary people. We have that here in Franklin. We simply need to honor it.”
Born in Palm Beach, Fla., Hicks moved to Franklin in 1974 to work in the music publishing industry in Nashville. He joined the Board of Directors of Carnton Plantation soon after and played a key role over the next few decades in the house’s restoration and interpretation.
In 2018, he was honored by the American Battlefield Trust with the coveted Edwin C. Bearrs Lifetime Achievement Award.
Hicks was active in art and the field of historic preservation beyond Williamson County, having served on the boards of the Tennessee State Museum, The Williamson County Historical Society, and the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He also served on the board of directors of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans. He was an internationally recognized collector of Southern antiques and folk art and with his knowledge and collections, he curated the landmark exhibition “Art of Tennessee” at the Frist Center for Visual Arts in Nashville in 2003.
“It’s not hoarding if you call it collecting,” he told more than one friend.
Despite the health struggles he faced in the last few years, he persevered with gratefulness for all those who surrounded him with care and those who provided him life-saving treatment and lived his life fully.
Hicks was predeceased by his parents, Robert Benjamin Hicks, Jr., and Pauline Electa Tallman Hicks.
He is survived by a brother, Marcus E. Sanders, and sister-in-law, Candy Allen; his niece, Nova Sanders, her husband, Daniel Long, and their extraordinary son, Ivan D. Long; cousin, James Edgar Hicks, III, and his husband, Robert Carothers, of Jackson, Tenn.; cousin, John Spaulding Hicks and his wife, Jacqueline Johnson Hicks of Nashville; and cousin, Sally Hicks.