Ralph Hickox was born 29 August 1903 at Washington D.C.

Enlisting in the United States Marine Corps 23 September 1921, he was appointed to Annapolis 18 July 1923 and commissioned ensign 2 June 1927. In the peacetime Navy, Hickox served in a variety of ships and stations and was finally appointed commanding officer of the destroyer Truxtun 3 October 1941. He had been commissioned lieutenant commander 1 July of that year.

When his ship went aground in heavy seas off St. Lawrence, Newfoundland, 18 February 1912, LCdr. Hickox remained on the bridge directing rescue operations in a cool and fearless manner, which inspired the officers and men under him and was instrumental in effecting the rescue of many of the members of his crew. He was swept from the bridge by the pounding seas, however, and lost.