George Hickman, one of the original Tuskegee airmen, has died at age 88. His wife, Doris, confirmed Monday that he died early Sunday morning in Seattle. Hickman was a part of an elite collective of Black military pilots and ground crew members who fought in World War II. Such a sight had never been seen before, yet Hickman and his comrades flew right into the history books. In 2007, he and other surviving Tuskegee airmen traveled to Washington, D.C., to receive the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor that Congress can give. In 2009, Hickman returned to the nation’s capital, where he attended President Barack Obama‘s inauguration as a special guest.

Hickman was also no stranger to sporting events, where he often could be seen shaking hands and hugging fans at Seattle sporting events. He personalized the often anonymous job of ushering, and most regulars to University of Washington (UW) games knew him by first name. His presence is sure to be a loss to those athletes, reporters, and fans who grew to expect hugs, handshakes, or pats on the back from the military veteran before games. “Things will be a little different right before we go out on the court not being able to shake the hand of George Hickman,” UW basketball coach Lorenzo Romar tweeted Monday. “He was one of the most inspirational men that I have ever met,” he added.

“He was just a wonderful man,” Doris Hickman, George’s wife of 57 years, said Monday.