James Collins Nichols, age 83 of Hiawassee, GA passed away on July 05, 2013 following an extended illness. He was born to the late James Clayton and Annie Lou (Hamm) Nichols of January 12, 1930 in Sprott, AL. He was preceded in death by infant daughter, Donna Gwen Nichols, sister, Judy Oakes and step-brother, Archie Rogers.
He is survived by wife, May Frances (Wolfe) Nichols, of Hiawassee, GA; daughters and sons-in-law, Laurie (Mark) Main, of Hiawassee, GA; Jennifer (Tom) Bowers, of Columbia, SC; son and daughter-in-law, Gregory (Kelly) Nichols, of Maryland; brothers and sisters-in-law, Cullen and Eleanor Nichols, of Selma, AL; John and Nina Rogers, of Montgomery, AL; James and Laverne Rogers, of Huntsville, AL; sister, Bernice Hughey, of Smiths, AL; brother-in-law, Thomas Oakes, of Marion, AL; sister-in-law, June Rogers, of Birmingham, AL; two grandchildren, Sara Gambill, of Lexington, KY; Kevin Rhatican, of Rapid City, SD; one great grandson, Josiah James Rhatican, of Rapid City, SD; and a number of nieces and nephews also survive.
James Collins Nichols went by many names in his lifetime. While growing up in Perry County, Alabama, he was known by his middle name Collins or "Cos". During those years, he worked alongside his four brothers and two sisters picking vegetables and cotton in the fields to help support the family. He graduated from Suttle High School in Suttle, Alabama in 1947; "Collins" was determined to go to college, often walking many miles to and from Marion Military Institute in Marion, Alabama. He completed his studies there in 1949 going on to join the newly formed United States Air Force in 1950, where he was soon being called by the name of Nick.
"Nick" served our county for 20 years by working in the areas of electronics, S.N.A.R.K. missile development, and weather support for bombers during the Korean Conflict. He was stationed around the country from Scott AFB near St. Louis, to Grand Prairie NAS in Dallas, Texas, Mather AFB in Sacramento, California, then on to Warner Robins AFB in Warner Robins, GA and completing his career at Offutt AFB in Omaha, Nebraska. During these years he married May Frances Wolfe and they were blessed with three children. He also completed the first of two Bachelor's degrees, Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of Nebraska. Throughout his career, he was known as a great golfer and was highly sought after by high ranking officers to assist their endeavors in prestigious golf tournaments. Always competitive, he was hugely successful and won many of these tournaments. It was also during these years that he indulged in his passion for hunting, especially quail, pheasant, and deer.
After retiring from the Air Force at the highest NCO rank of Chief Master Sargent in September 1970, Nick's work experience qualified him for employment at the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS) located in Suitland, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, DC. NESDIS provides global environmental data from satellites. Jim, as he was now known, returned to college earning a second Bachelor's degree in Earth Science from Bowie State University and quickly moved up the management ladder. He spent most of his twenty-two years in this career as a supervisor. The responsibilities were varied and interesting, even being called upon to give weather clearance for Space Shuttle launches.
During his years with NESDIS (informally known as NOAA), Jim and Fran purchased 15 acres in the southern Maryland community of Brandywine, remodeled an old farmhouse and began farming. Jim's relationship with gardening was a lifelong love affair. Around work, he gained the reputation for being the Silver Queen Corn guy. He grew acres of the corn and would bring sack after sack into work to sell to coworkers. In addition to this persona, Jim was also well known for his love of sweet tea and hot peppers - the hotter the better. During the late 70s and early 80s, Jim became very active in the Boy Scouts of America ultimately seeing his only son earn his Eagle Scout rank.
Retiring for a second time in 1992, Jim hoped to spend many happy years traveling, playing golf, hunting, and visiting friends and family across the country. He and Fran purchased a motorhome and had several years of enjoyment before his health began to infringe on their fun. In the fall of 2004, Jim and Fran moved to Hiawassee, Georgia to be near their oldest child. Settling into life in Hiawassee, Jim and Fran became members of McConnell Memorial Baptist Church. He made fast friends with all he encountered on a regular basis. Jim was seen frequently each week riding around the local grocery store scouting the best price for favorite foods or eating at his favorite buffet restaurant.
Over the years, Jim was heavily involved in church wherever he lived. He met his wife through a young adult group in Bellville, IL. Mentored and tutored youth, served on many committees such as finance and personnel, and was always eager to encourage those around him with a hug and his warm smile. Jim is a Deacon Emeritus at Clinton Baptist Church in Clinton, Maryland, where he was a very active member from 1972 until 2004. Jim loved to sing in the choir and attend Bible study classes. He completed two sections of Master Life during his years at Clinton Baptist.
Whether he was Collins, Nick, or Jim he touched countless lives and leaves a legacy of strong faith and family values. His advice, laughter and sweet tenor singing voice will be greatly missed by those who knew him well. His family's greatest consolation is that he ran the race until its finish and is now in the presence of our Lord and Savior in peace.
Funeral services were held on Friday, July 12, 2013 at 2:30 PM from McConnell Memorial Baptist Church with Rev. Jimmy Adams officiating. Interment will be held in Arlington cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family request donations and contributions be made to: Freeing the Future Buliding fund at McConnell Memorial Baptist Church, (706-896-2281) in Mr. Nichols memory. Banister Funeral Home of Hiawassee in charge of arrangements.
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