Fort Worth, Texas — Jim Nichols, the longtime leader of the Freese and Nichols consulting firm 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, Mr. Nichols was instrumental in providing dependable water supplies to communities across the state. For the drought-ravaged cities of West Texas, Mr. Nichols 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, Mr. 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 key roles 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 credits much of its success to Mr. Nichols’ decades of leadership. The firm incorporated in 1977, and Mr. Nichols, already having served 21 years as Partner, became its first President. He served in that role for 11 years, followed by 14 as Board Chairman and 14 as Chairman Emeritus. Well into his 90s, Mr. Nichols remained a consistent presence in Freese and Nichols’ Fort Worth headquarters, advising project teams, consulting with clients and teaching professional ethics classes.
Mr. 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. The list of organizations for which he held leadership roles is lengthy, including the Texas A&M Research Foundation, Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Tarrant County, All Saints Episcopal Hospital (now Baylor All Saints Medical Center) and the Panther Boys’ Club. His dedication was so exemplary that each year Freese and Nichols honors an employee with a service award that bears his name.
Mr. 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. Mr. Nichols is survived by Billie, his wife of 71 years; three children, Judy, Richard and John; and six grandchildren. His brother, Bob, died in May 2015.