Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Panola County coroner Gracie Grant-Gulledge retrieves a baseball cap possibly belonging to Bennie Hicks of Memphis. Hicks was struck and killed on Interstate 55, where his body was spotted by a passing motorist. The Panolian photo by Billy Davis

Hit-and-run victim helped homeless at Memphis shelter

By Billy Davis

A Memphis man who was killed last week in a hit-and-run incident on Interstate 55 left a legacy of helping others escape drugs and alcohol.

Bennie Earl Hicks, 39, had walked away from a disabled automobile, most likely to seek help, when he was struck in the southbound lane near the Como exit.

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Hicks worked as a rehab counselor at a Memphis rescue mission, Calvary Street Ministry.

The vehicle was parked on the shoulder of the northbound lane, authorities said.

The hit and run occurred in the pre-dawn darkness of Friday, March 6, said Panola County coroner Gracie Grant-Gulledge. 

Authorities believe he was struck by a red 18-wheeler since a fender from the truck was found at the scene. The truck and its driver have not been found.

“We have had no success in finding the truck,” Miss. Highway Patrol Captain Roosevelt Howard reported Monday.

At Calvary Street Ministry, Hicks had a talent for reaching drug addicts and alcoholics who stubbornly believed they could conquer their addictions by themselves, said executive director Malcolm McRae.

The class Hicks taught, which ranged in size from five to 20 addicts, had a 62-percent success rate.

“Bennie had a special gift for reaching people,” said McRae. “He reached them with street language and from speaking about his own past.”

Hicks had been a client of the rescue mission in 1991 “and stayed with us,” the executive director said.

A memorial service for Hicks is planned for Thursday night at the rescue mission, located at 600 Poplar Avenue.

Family members said Hicks had accompanied a second man to Grenada to purchase an automobile, and the two men drove in separate vehicles to return to Memphis, said Grant- Gulledge, who had spoken to family members.

A passing motorist spotted Hicks’s body Friday morning, March 6. Hicks was found 30 feet from the roadway and was pronounced dead on the scene.

Local authorities, responding to the scene Friday, cordoned the area with police tape and marked evidence that included the truck fender, and Hick’s baseball cap and other personal items.