Born in 1895 in Baltimore, Maryland, Hicks appeared in nearly 300 films between 1915 and 1956. His first appearance was an uncredited role in The Birth of a Nation (1915). He often appeared as a smooth-talking confidence man, as in the W. C. Fields film The Bank Dick (1940). Distinguished, suave and a consummate actor, Hicks played a variety of judges, corrupt officials, businessmen and attorneys, working in a variety of mediums almost until his death. Hicks appeared once in the syndicated western television series The Cisco Kid as an uncle of the Gail Davis character, whom he threatens to disinherit if she marries a known gangster.
He died in Los Angeles, California, from a heart attack.