The Hicks Texas radio dynasty began with John Hicks, Jr., a theology professor at Southern Methodist University. Hicks worked in the newspaper industry as an advertising representative prior to World War II. Upon returning from the war, he went to work for Burris Mills of Dallas as an advertising representative for area newspapers and radio stations. Burris Mills sponsored the Fort Worth-based Light Crust Doughboys, whose advertising Hicks handled.
In 1959 John Hicks, Jr., bought his first radio station, KOLE, in Port Arthur, Texas. He was successful in the radio business and continued to buy local Texas radio stations until he owned an AM and FM station in seven different broadcasting areas, the maximum number then allowed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Hicks's stations were based in Port Arthur, Beaumont, Bryan, Sherman, Laredo, Lufkin, and Big Spring, and in Lafayette, Louisiana. In the 1960s Hicks often used his radio stations to pursue joint promotions of concert events featuring such entertainers as George Jones, a strategy that would later serve the Hicks family well. Hicks and his wife Madelyn had four sons, John III (Jay), Tom, Steven, and William. The Hicks sons often worked for their father as radio DJs and later continued their father's pioneering legacy in the radio business by assembling one of the largest radio empires in United States history.
Jay Hicks began working for his father in the mid-1960s. Though he did own at least one radio station in Charlottesville, Virginia, he sold his interests and soon went on to a career in the computer business. Steve Hicks built Gulfstar Communications and Capstar Broadcasting which included interests in Tyler, Beaumont, Lufkin, Waco, Longview, and Corpus Christi. Tom Hicks enjoyed a successful career in the finance industry as one of the founders of Hicks, Muse, Tate and Furst, Inc., a Dallas-based company that orchestrated substantial media buyouts. He also built Chancellor Broadcasting which gave him a significant presence in most major United States radio markets. William Hicks started his own broadcasting company based in Bryan with the help of his brothers, Steve and Tom. The three Hicks brothers also bought WSIX-FM in Nashville, Tennessee, an important station in the country music broadcasting world.
The Hicks brothers faced FCC regulations that prevented them from owning large numbers of radio stations but changes in FCC rules eased some of the regulations. In 1996 Congress passed the Telecommunications Act which increased the number of radio stations an individual could own in one broadcasting area from three to either four or five, depending on the size of the regional market. The passage of the Telecommunications Act enabled brothers Tom, William, and Steve Hicks to pursue a merger that made the Hicks family one of the most prominent and powerful names in radio.
In 1999 Tom Hicks's Chancellor Media Corporation purchased Steve Hicks's Austin-based Capstar Broadcasting. The new company was called AMFM Incorporated. The merger brought together some 463 radio stations in 105 markets. AMFM was equal in size to Clear Channel Communications of San Antonio at the time. Clear Channel acquired AMFM in 2000 in a move that established Clear Channel as one of the largest broadcasting interests in the world.
Patriarch John Hicks, Jr., died in 1993 and is buried in Beaumont. His statue is on display in Austin at the Texas Association of Broadcasters offices, an organization with which the family has been closely involved over the years. His son Jay Hicks died in Charlottesville, Virginia, on September 3, 2007. In 2003 William Hicks was the head of Bryan Broadcasting in Bryan, Texas.
Steven Hicks was on the board of directors for Click Radio, an interactive digital radio service. Tom Hicks resigned from Hicks, Muse, Tate, and Furst, Inc., in 2004 but continued to be active through his new company, Hicks Holdings LLC. He was also prominent in public circles through his ownership of several sports franchises, including the Texas Rangers and the Dallas Stars.