JOHN F. (“JOHNNY”) NICHOLS, SR.
Always in our “HALL OF FAME”
John F. “Johnny” Nichols, Sr. passed away peacefully on January 27, 2020.
Johnny leaves behind a legacy of generosity, humility, excellence and love. Johnny was first a dedicated father, grandfather, brother, uncle, family member and friend. Johnny was also a consummate legal professional; and was a gifted and competitive athlete.
Born to Floyd Nichols and Dorothy Nichols in Houston’s St Joseph Hospital on October 13, 1941, Johnny was a lifelong Houstonian. As a young man, Johnny was a Cub Scout, Sea Scout, Eagle Scout. He attended HISD schools graduating with high honors from Galena Park High School 1959. Not only did Johnny excel academically at Galena Park, he excelled athletically as well and was name the Co-Captain of the football team for years 1958 and 1959.
Although courted many colleges and universities across this nation, Johnny committed to the Rice Institute in his senior year and entered on a full athletic scholarship to play football in the fall of 1960. He was Rice University football Co-Captain 1964-65. Voted as Rice Most Valuable Football player. Played in the All-Star Hula Bowl, both offense and defense. Johnny always played right guard. He coached football at Rice while attending University of Houston Law School. Toward the end of his collegiate career, when asked by his mother (Dorothy Nichols) and his Coach (Jess Neely) what he wanted to do after he graduated, he told them both that he wanted to be a Comedian or a Priest. Coach Jess Neely, without hesitation denied his suggestion and said “Lawyer”. To assure that Johnny pursued the career suggested, Coach Neely’s terms for Johnny being able to coach at Rice after his graduation was for Johnny to go Law School. Although Coach Neely had confidence and high hopes for Johnny, never could he have imagined just how far Johnny would take his legal career and the advancement of law statewide and nationally. OR?maybe he did! Johnny graduated Rice University ? Bachelor of Science.
October 13, 1988 was a special day to remember in the life of Johnny Nichols. It was his 47th birthday and the night he was inducted into the Rice Athletic Hall of Fame! Johnny was recognized for his sports deeds while a Rice Owl from 1959 through that memorable 1963 campaign in the Jess Neely era at Rice, with Joe Davis as his line coach. A treasured memory of the time? Johnny loves to tell it. “Our TCU game at Fort Worth was delayed until a week after the regular season ended because of the Kennedy assassination. By then I’d been given a bunch of honors – all-SWC guard, team co-captain, an invitation to the North-South all-star game, and the Rice MVP George Martin Award. Early on at TCU their center knocked the livin’ hell out of me on a fierce block. As I staggered off the field, ol’ Joe Davis grumbled to me ‘I guess that guy didn’t read all about you, did he?,'” Johnny recalls. Now, as he looks back, Nichols says how much it meant to him to play with teammates and under coaches of such ‘class’ status like Neely and his staff, and with guys like Robert Johnston (a Rhodes Scholar), the King brothers Rufus and Boyd, and so many more. Johnny was a natural for Rice as a talented athlete with a flair for leadership.
Johnny got his law degree from University of Houston Law School in 1967. Johnny specialized in family law, personal injury law, and civil trial law. He began his career as a trial lawyer with Fulbright & Jaworski before he set out to transform the practice of family law. As a family law, civil trial law and personal injury trial law attorney, Johnny has been a trailblazer, a prolific author, and a legal mentor in the Houston community and throughout Texas for over 50 years.
Johnny is one of the 13 founding members of the Texas Bar College. Johnny once said: “I just want to say what a tremendous benefit it has been to be a founding member of the Texas Bar College. The State Bar has been exceedingly generous to me and has helped my career. I thank the College from the bottom of my heart. I wish it good luck for its fabulous contributions to me and my fellow lawyers here in Texas for many years.”
In addition to the Texas Bar College, Johnny was a founding member of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and a founding member of the International Academy of the Family Lawyers. He has written over 178 articles and taught over 100 classes and seminars. He has been named one of the “Best Matrimonial Lawyers in America” by several publications as well as one of Houston’s Top Lawyers and a Texas Super Lawyer. Johnny is also a past recipient of the prestigious State Bar of Texas Gene Cavin Award and the recent recipient of the Pat Nester Award – which recognize long-term contributions to and achievement in continuing legal education.
Johnny was also a fellow of the Texas Bar Foundation, the International Society of Barristers, Fellow, Gulf Coast Family Law Specialists Association, Fellow, National Board of Trial Advocates.
Since being admitted to the State Bar, he has argued before the highest Texas courts and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and was admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States.
Almost everyone who has known Johnny would tell you:
“Great lawyer. In every sense of the word. And an honorable man. Every lawyer should aspire to have his integrity. If he gave you his word, you didn’t need it in writing.”
“There has never been a more prepared lawyer and when you tried a case with him, you were in for a long tough day. ”
“No matter who you were: student of the law, opposing counsel, member of the judiciary, family member, friend, stranger, etc. ? when Johnny’s attention and advice were sought, he would stop whatever he was doing and give it to you, never talking down to anyone and always making the person he was talking to feel like he/she was the most important person in the room.”
As impressive as this all may sound, if you asked Johnny what he believed to be his greatest achievement, he would state, without hesitation ? “The love and health of his family.” You see, above all else, Johnny treasured the time spent with his family.
Johnny is predeceased by his parents: Mother- Dorothy Nichols and Father ? Floyd Nichols. He is survived by his wonderful children: Robyn Nichols; John “Bo” Nichols, Jr. and his wife Angela Nichols; and his son Travis Nichols and his wife Julia Nichols. Johnny was PawPaw-Nic to his granddaughters: Blake Nichols, Reagan Nichols and Dylan Nichols. Johnny is also survived by his loving and supporting sister Dotty L. Wood and her husband Bob Wood. His is also survived by his nieces Kim Shaw, Kelly Corwin and Kris Hallinan and her husband Edward Hallinan and their son Trey. Johnny is also survived by countless numbers of friends, colleagues and associates.
The family would also like to thank Dr. Joseph Masdeu, MD, Director of the Nantz Alzheimer’s Center and Dr. Stanley Appel, MD and Dr. Sheetal Shroff, MD in the Neurological Dept of Methodist Hospital, for their loving care and expertise in dealing with Johnny’s Alzheimer’s and ALS. Special thanks to Dr. Sarah Selleck, MD for her care of Johnny and putting up with all his bad jokes. Go Rice Dr. Selleck!
With grateful hearts, the family also wishes to thank Dee Brahmnatt and her staff at Bedford Residence for the wonderful and compassionate personal care of Johnny.
A Memorial Service celebrating Johnny’s life will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, February 1, 2020 at St. Mark Lutheran Church (Pastor Matt Popovits), 1515 Hillendahl, Houston, Texas 77055.
Immediately following the memorial service, all are invited to greet the family during a reception at Armadillo Palace, 5015 Kirby Dr, Houston, TX 77098.
Johnny, thank you for the countless contributions to your family, the legal and, specifically, the family law community as well as the Houston community.
WE LOVE YOU!
Published in Houston Chronicle from Jan. 31 to Feb. 1, 2020