Josephine Smith Hicks, front, is pictured with her family members and Atoka Mayor Barry Akin Tuesday night after a proclamation was read honoring the occasion of her 100th birthday. Photo courtesy Town of Atoka

Josephine Smith Hicks got more and more emotional the more the mayor went on. 

“Isn’t this something?” she said as mayor Barry Akin said she’d officially become a centenarian.

Born Feb. 22, 1923, she was being honored by the Town of Atoka for reaching her 100th birthday. 


“[I want to] thank God,” she told Akin Tuesday night. “Thank you, thank you all so much.”

Her parents were World War I veteran Caldwell Smith Sr., who was born at Kerrville and lived near Barrettville, and Aline Hodges Sanders Smith, who was born and raised in Fayette County. The two married in August 1919.

They chose to raise their large family –Ms. Hicks is the third of 13 born to the union – on farms in Shelby County. Addresses listed in census records show they lived on Hawkins Mill Road and Overton Crossing Road. 

Ms. Hicks graduated from Woodstock Training High School with high honors, the proclamation reads, and won seamstress awards in her home economics class. She later used those skills while working at Millington Naval Air Station with her mother and oldest sister. She also made shirts for Goldsmith’s before moving on to the Veterans Administration nursing home and hospital, becoming the first Black seamstress they employed. She spent a quarter century with the VA.  

The proclamation was a surprise to her and as it was read she joked, “You’ve got everything on there …” 

In 1953, she was united in marriage to Milton Hicks Sr. and they became the parents of six children, grandparents of eight, and great-grandparents of four. She has lived most of her life just outside the Atoka city limits.

Not many people reach 100 years of age, however there is some longevity on her father’s side of the family. Mr. Smith lived to be 92 years old and his mother, Mary Eliza Smith, died at age 101.

Due a recent surgery she is in a wheelchair, but said she still gets around well without help and still lives on her own.

The Town of Atoka declared Feb. 22, 2023 Josephine Smith Hicks Day  in honor of the milestone event.

“That’s right, you all enjoy it,” she joked. 

Echo Day
Author: Echo Day

Echo Day is an award-winning journalist, photographer and designer. She is currently The Leader's managing editor.