Cecil Hicks, the former district attorney of Orange County and Superior Court judge who was an institution in Southern California legal circles for more than four decades, has died. He was 80.
Hicks died Friday at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Orange after a weeks-long bout with pneumonia, said Jo Hicks, his wife of 59 years.
Cecil Hicks had served as a deputy district attorney for eight years when Orange County supervisors appointed him district attorney in 1966. He remained chief prosecutor for nearly 23 years before deciding not to run for reelection in 1989. That same year, he was appointed to a Superior Court judgeship, which he retained until retiring in 2001.
Michael R. Capizzi, Hicks’ successor as district attorney, regarded him as a mentor, praising him in a 1989 Times interview for “the honesty, the integrity and the purity in which he has run the office.... The total atmosphere of having prosecuted those cases that should have been prosecuted are his greatest hallmark.”
Hicks was one of the first district attorneys in California to establish a special organized crime and grand jury unit equipped with a team of investigators. He was also among the first in the state to set up separate units to detect and prosecute sexual abuse, consumer and welfare fraud, career criminals and gang members.
Born in Los Angeles on Aug. 2, 1926, Hicks had a premonition of his future, writing in a school paper at age 11 that when he grew up he wanted to put bad people in jail.
“He loved everything about being a district attorney,” Jo Hicks said. “But when he turned 63, he felt it was time to move on and let others have their fun.”
When he wasn’t attending meetings or giving speeches, his wife said, he liked getting lost in a good book, sometimes reading three or four a week. He also had a deep appreciation for nature, always trying to get his wife to notice chirping birds and the shifting colors of fall leaves.
And “he loved a good party,” Jo said. “He was always cracking jokes.... He was such a ham for attention.
“I just loved his sense of humor,” she said. “He hadn’t smiled in days and I told him about something that happened to me the Friday that he died and he smiled; it was the first one I’d seen in weeks. I’m so glad I experienced it one last time.”
In addition to his wife, Hicks is survived by five children, 19 grandchildren and 7 great-grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements are pending, Jo Hicks said.