Born June 3, 1905 in Blackville, Arkansas, Pickens was educated at the Blackville Training School, Philander Smith College, and graduated from Virginia Union University. The youngest of four children, he inherited his entrepreneurial spirit, fearless risk taking and zest for life from his father, Pickens Black, Sr.
According to the Arkansas History Commission, Pickens Black, Jr. was the first black aviator licensed to fly in the State of Arkansas having received his student pilot certificate on January 7, 1932 and his private pilot license on November 30, 1933. He owned a passenger plane and ultimately two crop dusters. But before he bought a plane, he built his own plane only to have the government forbid him to fly it. For many years that airplane was displayed above the 555 Gas Station in North Little Rock.
Pickens married Marjorie Nichols Black and the union produced eight children. He died in the home of his birth in Blackville in 1980. He is buried in the Oddfellow Cemetery at Auvergne, Jackson County, Arkansas.