Homer H. Hickam, Jr. was born on February 19, 1943, the second son of
Homer and Elsie Hickam, and was raised in Coalwood, West Virginia. He
graduated from Big Creek High School in 1960 and from the Virginia
Polytechnic Institute (Virginia Tech) in 1964 with a BS degree in
Industrial Engineering. A U.S. Army veteran, Mr. Hickam served as a First
Lieutenant in the Fourth Infantry Division in Vietnam in 1967-1968 where
he won the Army Commendation and Bronze Star medals. He served six years
on active duty, leaving the service with the rank of Captain.
Hickam has been a writer since 1969 after his return from Vietnam. At
first, he mostly wrote about his scuba diving adventures for a variety of
different magazines. Then, after diving on many of the wrecks involved,
he branched off into writing about the battle against the U-boats along
the American east coast during World War II. This resulted in his first
book, Torpedo Junction (1989), a military history best-seller published
in 1989 by the Naval Institute Press.
In 1998, Delacorte Press published Hickam's second book, Rocket Boys: A
Memoir, the story of his life in the little town of Coalwood, West
Virginia. It became an instant classic. Rocket Boys has since been
translated into eight languages and also released as an abridged audio
book and electronic book. Among it's many honors, it was selected by the
New York Times as one of its "Great Books of 1998" and was an alternate
"Book-of-the-Month" selection for both the Literary Guild and Doubleday
book clubs. Rocket Boys was also nominated by the National Book Critics
Circle as Best Biography of 1998. In February, 1999, Universal Studios
released its critically-acclaimed film October Sky, based on Rocket Boys
(The title October Sky is an anagram of Rocket Boys). Delacorte
subsequently released a mass market paperback of Rocket Boys, re-titled
October Sky. October Sky reached the New York Times # 1 position on their
Mr. Hickam's first fiction novel was Back to the Moon (1999) which was
also simultaneously released as a hardcover, audio book, and eBook. It
has also been translated into Chinese.
The Coalwood Way (2000), a memoir of Homer's hometown he calls "not a
sequel but an equal," was published by Delacorte Press and is available
in abridged audio, eBook, large print and Japanese. It was an alternate
"Book-of-the-Month" selection for Doubleday book club. His third Coalwood
memoir, a true sequel, was published in October 2001. It is titled Sky of
Stone (2001). Sky of Stone is presently under development as a television
movie. His final book about Coalwood was published in 2002, a self
help/inspirational tome titled We Are Not Afraid: Strength and Courage
from the Town That Inspired the #1 Bestseller and Award-Winning Movie
His latest work is the novel Red Helmet (2008) published by Thomas Nelson.
He is also the author of a popular series of novels that feature Josh Thurlow, a Coast Guard officer during World War II.
The series began with The Keeper's Son (2003), then continued with The Ambassador's Son (2005) and The Far Reaches (2007).
While working on his writing career, Mr. Hickam was employed as an
engineer for the U.S. Army Missile Command from 1971 to 1981 assigned to
Huntsville, Alabama, and Germany. He began employment with the National
Aeronautics and Space Administration at Marshall Space Flight Center in
1981 as an aerospace engineer. During his NASA career, Mr. Hickam worked
in spacecraft design and crew training. His specialties at NASA included
training astronauts on science payloads, and extravehicular activities
(EVA). He also trained astronaut crews for many Spacelab and Space
Shuttle missions, including the Hubble Space Telescope deployment
mission, the first two Hubble repair missions, Spacelab-J (the first
Japanese astronauts), and the Solar Max repair mission. Prior to his
retirement in 1998, Mr. Hickam was the Payload Training Manager for the
International Space Station Program.
In 1984, Mr. Hickam was presented with Alabama's Distinguished Service
Award for heroism shown during a rescue effort of the crew and passengers
of a sunken paddleboat in the Tennessee River. Because of this award, Mr.
Hickam was honored in 1996 by the United States Olympic Committee to
carry the Olympic Torch through Huntsville, Alabama, on its way to
In 1999, the governor of the state of West Virginia issued a proclamation
in honor of Mr. Hickam for his support of his home state and his
distinguished career as both an engineer and author and declared an
annual "Rocket Boys Day."
For recreation, Mr. Hickam still loves to SCUBA dive. He also jogs nearly
every day. A new avocation is amateur paleontology. He works with Dr.
Jack Horner in Montana every summer. Most of all, however, he loves to
Mr. Hickam is married to Linda Terry Hickam, an artist and his first
editor and assistant. They love their cats and share their time between
homes in Alabama and the Virgin Islands.