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Former district attorney triumphed over poverty

| Monday, June 17, 2002

Funeral arrangements have been completed for John "Jack" Hickton, former Allegheny County district attorney, who died on Saturday, June 15, 2002, of complications from leukemia and congestive heart failure.

Mr. Hickton had lived in HCR Manor Care in Bethel Park since 1994. He was 75.

Visitation will be from 1 to 9 p.m. today at Laughlin Memorial Chapel Inc., 1008 Castle Shannon Blvd.

Mr. Hickton's son, David Hickton, a Pittsburgh attorney and adjunct professor at Duquesne University, reflected on his father's life, which included years of public service to Allegheny County.

"It has been difficult, especially since this is Father's Day," David Hickton said Sunday. "But my father had been in a terrible seven-year decline healthwise. He had 75 good years, and we were looking for his path to heaven."

Mr. Hickton, who served as assistant county solicitor from 1967 to 1974, was appointed district attorney after the death of District Attorney Robert W. Duggan in 1974. Mr. Hickton served as district attorney until 1976.

Following his stint as district attorney, Mr. Hickton joined the law firm Hickton, Dean, Litman, Tighe and O'Reilly, where he remained until his retirement in 1987.

Mr. Hickton was born in an orphanage in Brooklyn, N.Y., the son of Irish immigrants John and Peggy McNulty. His father died before he was born, and his mother was unable to care for him, family said.

He was raised in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn by an elderly couple, George and Martha Hickton.

"He had no money and lived in a cockroach-infested apartment," his son said. "He was hungry all the time."

In the late 1940s, Mr. Hickton served in the Army in Beijing. He married Gloria Catherine McDermott in 1949.

Mr. Hickton studied at Fordham, St. John's and Columbia universities. He initially worked as an insurance claims manager, and moved to Pittsburgh at age 32.

Mr. Hickton worked and supported his five children while he attended the Duquesne School of Law. After graduating in 1962, he began his law career with the firm of McArdle, Harrington, Feeney and McLaughlin.

"He had a dynamic personality," David Hickton said. "He had no patience for anyone who felt they could not improve their life."

Mr. Hickton is survived by five children, David of Pittsburgh, Maren of Bethel Park, Jake of Chicago, Loran of Vancouver, Wash., and Tony of Bethel Park; and 11 grandchildren.

A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Tuesday at St. Anne's Church in Castle Shannon. Burial will be in St. Anne's Cemetery.

Memorial contributions may be made to the John J. Hickton Scholarship Fund, Duquesne School of Law, 600 Forbes Ave., Pittsburgh, Pa. 15282.

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