Robert Hicks is the author of The New York Times Bestseller The Widow of the South and has played a major role in preserving the historic Carnton mansion, a focal point in the Battle of Franklin (November 30, 1864).
Robert Hicks was born and raised in South Florida. He moved to Williamson County, Tennessee in 1974 and lives near the Bingham Community at "Labor in Vain," his late-eighteenth-century log cabin.
Working over the years as a music publisher and in artist management in both country and alternative-rock music, Hicks’s interests have remained varied. A partner in the B. B. King’s Blues Clubs in Nashville, Memphis, Orlando and Los Angeles, Hicks serves as ‘Curator of Vibe’ of the corporation.
A lifelong collector, Hicks was the first Tennessean to be listed among Art & Antiques’ Top 100 Collectors in America —- his collection focuses on Outsider Art, Tennesseana, and Southern Material Culture. He served as curator on the exhibition, Art of Tennessee, at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville. The exhibition was a seven-year endeavor from conception at his kitchen table to its opening, September 2003. He was co-editor of the exhibition’s award winning and critically acclaimed catalog, Art of Tennessee (University of Tennessee Press, September 2003).
In the field of historic preservation, he has 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 presently serves on the board of directors of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans and of Historic Carnton Plantation in Franklin, Tennessee.
In December 1997, after a third term as President of the Carnton board, and in light of his years of service to the site, Hicks was named by board resolution: “the driving force in the restoration and preservation of Historic Carnton Plantation.”
He is founding chairman emeritus of Franklin’s Charge: A Vision and Campaign for the Preservation of Historic Open Space in the fight to secure and preserve both battlefield and other historic open space in Williamson County. Franklin’s Charge took on the massive mission of saving what remains of the eastern flank of the battlefield at Franklin -— the largest remaining undeveloped fragment of the battlefield -— and turning it into a public battlefield park. The American Battlefield Protection Program has called this endeavor “the largest battlefield reclamation in North American history.” By the end of 2005, Franklin’s Charge had already raised over 5 million dollars toward this goal, surpassing anything ever done within any other community in America to preserve battlefield open space. As Jim Lighthizer, President of the Civil War Preservation Trust has said, “There is no ‘close second’ in any community in America, to what Robert Hicks and Franklin’s Charge has done in Franklin.” The Governor named Hicks as a commissioner to plan out the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War in Tennessee.
Hicks became fascinated by the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee, a major battle which occurred in the final months of the Civil War. During his many years working at Carnton, he began to develop a book idea, and during an accidental meeting with civil war historian and author Shelby Foote, he received further encouragement to complete a historic novel about the battle.
The result was Hicks' first novel, The Widow of the South (Warner Books, NY, 2005). In writing the novel, he hoped to bring national attention back to this moment in our nation’s history, the impact those five bloody hours played in making us a nation, and in the preservation of the sites tied to the story. The Widow of the South was launched September 1, 2005 to overwhelming critical success, entering the New York Times Bestseller List after only one week out.
The novel is centered around the Carnton Plantation and mansion which was commandeered by officers of the Confederate States Army as a hospital during the Battle of Franklin II. Hicks creates a cast of characters including the Madame of the mansion and soldiers wounded during this monumental battle. The novel has been critically acclaimed as comparable to other literary works on the Civil War including "Gone with the Wind," and "The Killer Angels."
In December 2005, the (Nashville) Tennessean named him ‘Tennessean of the Year’ for the impact The Widow of the South had on Tennessee, heritage tourism and preservation.
Hicks' second novel, A Separate Country (Grand Central Publishing/Hachette/North America) was released on September 23, 2009.
The novel is set in New Orleans in the years after the Civil War. It is based on the incredible life of John Bell Hood, arguably one of the most controversial generals of the Confederate Army--and one of its most tragic figures. Robert E. Lee promoted him to major general after the Battle of Antietam. But the Civil War would mark him forever. At Gettysburg, he lost the use of his left arm. At the Battle of Chickamauga, his right leg was amputated. Starting fresh after the war, he married Anna Marie Hennen and fathered 11 children with her, including three sets of twins. But fate had other plans. Crippled by his war wounds and defeat, ravaged by financial misfortune, Hood had one last foe to battle: Yellow Fever.
Hicks' essays on regional history, southern material culture, furniture and music have appeared in numerous publications over the years. Hicks now writes op-eds for The New York Times on contemporary politics in the South.
He travels, throughout the nation, speaking on a variety of topics ranging from Why The South Matters to The Importance of Fiction in Preserving History to Southern Material Culture to A Model for the Preservation of Historic Open Space for Every Community and a host of other topics.
Hicks' first book, a collaboration with French-American photographer Michel Arnaud, came out in 2000: Nashville: the Pilgrims of Guitar Town (Stewart, Tabori & Chang).
He is co-editor (with Justin Stelter and John Bohlinger) of a collection of short stories, A Guitar and A Pen: Short Stories and Story-Songs By Nashville Songwriters (Center Street Books/Hachette, North America) was released in April, 2008.