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Author Homer Hadley Hickam Jr. was born February 19, 1943, in Coalwood, McDowell County. He graduated from nearby Big Creek High School in 1960 and from Virginia Polytechnic Institute in 1964 with a B.S. in industrial engineering. Hickam served in the army in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Army Commendation and Bronze Star medals. He went to work for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration at Marshall Space Flight Center in 1981 as an aerospace engineer. He retired from NASA in 1998.

Hickam’s first book was Torpedo Junction, a history of World War II submarine warfare off America’s east coast, published in 1989. In 1998, Hickam’s second book, Rocket Boys: A Memoir, the story of his life in the town of Coalwood, was published. A runaway bestseller, Rocket Boys was selected by the New York Times as one of its ‘‘Great Books of 1998’’ and nominated by the National Book Critics Circle as Best Biography of 1998. In February 1999, Universal Studios released the popular film October Sky, based on Rocket Boys.

Hickam’s first novel, Back to the Moon, was published in 1999. The Coalwood Way, another memoir of Hickam’s hometown, was published in 2000, and his third Coalwood book, Sky of Stone: A Memoir, was published in 2001. An inspirational book, We Are Not Afraid: Strength and Courage from the Town That Inspired the #1 Bestseller and Award-Winning Movie October Sky, was published in 2002. In 2021, Hickam published another long-awaited book about Coalwood: Don’t Blow Yourself Up: The Further True Adventures and Travails of the Rocket Boy of October Sky.

Hickam also wrote a series of novels featuring Coast Guard Lt. Josh Thurlow, beginning with The Keeper’s Son, published in October 2003. Three additional novels in this series followed, along with books on space exploration and a biography of female astronaut Anousheh Ansari.

Other books include Red Helmet (2008) set in Highcoal, West Virginia; The Dinosaur Hunter (2010), Carrying Albert Home: The Somewhat True Story of a Woman, a Husband, and Her Alligator (2015); and a series of science-fiction books about Helium-3.

With Carl Anthony Tramon, Hickam wrote the book for the musical Rocket Boys, with music by Dan Tramon and Diana Belkowski. Theatre West Virginia hosted the show’s world premiere at Grandview Park near Beckley in 2011; it has since become part of the production company’s regular summer repertoire.

Hickam is married to Linda Terry Hickam, and they live in Huntsville, Alabama.

Last Revised on September 13, 2023

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e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia "Homer Hickam." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 13 September 2023. Web. 14 June 2024.

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