Jim Nichols, the longtime leader of Freese and Nichols and one of Texas’ most esteemed civil engineers, passed away Thursday, February 11. He was 92.
Throughout his 66-year career at Freese and Nichols, Nichols was instrumental in providing dependable water supplies to communities across the state. For the drought-ravaged cities of West Texas, he helped create multicity water districts; raised project funding; and designed dams, pipelines and pump stations. For North Texas, his home for most of his life, Nichols oversaw the design of Richland-Chambers Reservoir, the largest lake in the system that supplies water to Tarrant County. His technical expertise extended to aviation as well; he played a key role in the creation of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and led Freese and Nichols’ development of the original infrastructure there in the 1970s.
“The number of people whose lives Jim touched is truly remarkable,” says Bob Pence, Freese and Nichols’ current CEO and President. “Wherever I’d go — it could be a utility in Abilene, a state agency in Austin, or a Chamber function here in Fort Worth — people would ask me ‘How’s Jim doing?’ The impact of his work and his service will be felt for generations to come.”
Freese and Nichols would not be where we are today without Nichols’ decades of leadership. In 1977, already having served 21 years as Partner, he became the first President when the firm incorporated. He served in that role for 11 years, followed by 14 as Board Chairman and 14 as Chairman Emeritus. Well into his 90s, Nichols remained a consistent presence in the offices, as he advised project teams, consulted with clients and taught professional ethics classes.
Nichols’ achievements in his work are matched only by his passion for service to his profession and his community. He served as Chairman of the Texas Board of Professional Engineers and as President of the Texas Water Conservation Association. He held leadership roles for the Texas A&M Research Foundation and the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, and he could often be found volunteering with the Panther Boys’ Club, YMCA or Girl Scouts. His dedication was so exemplary that each year Freese and Nichols honors an employee with a community service award that bears his name.
Jim Nichols was born June 29, 1923, to Marvin and Ethel Nichols. He was an alumnus of Fort Worth’s Paschal High School and Texas A&M University, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering. He is survived by Billie, his wife of 71 years; three children, Judy, Richard and John; six grandchildren; six great-grandchildren; and seven great-great-grandchildren. His brother, Bob, died in May 2015.
To sign a guestbook or read more about Jim Nichols’ legacy, visit www.freese.com.