Jim Nichols, 1923-2016
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, Jim was instrumental in providing dependable water supplies to communities across the state. For the drought-ravaged cities of West Texas, Jim 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, Jim 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 Jim’s decades of leadership. In 1977, already having served 21 years as Partner, Jim became our first President when our 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, Jim remained a consistent presence in our offices, as he advised project teams, consulted with clients and taught professional ethics classes.
Jim’s 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 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. Jim 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.
Thompson's Harveson & Cole Funeral Home
702 Eighth Avenue
Fort Worth, Texas
Tuesday, February 16
5 to 7 p.m.
Arborlawn United Methodist Church
5001 Briarhaven Road
Fort Worth, Texas
Wednesday, February 17
3 p.m. with a reception to follow
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be given to Happy Hill Farm Foundation, 3846 N. Highway 144, Granbury, Texas 76048; The Union Gospel Mission, 1321 E. Lancaster Ave., Fort Worth, Texas 76102; or a charity of choice.
We encourage you to sign the guestbook by leaving a comment below and to read more about Jim's legacy in his biography.