Growing up with a father who was an engineer, Bob Nichols never had any doubt what he would become.
“He always anticipated that he’d be an engineer,” said Jim Nichols, his brother. “He and I would both travel with our father and go to projects. He told the both of us he’d pay our way to go to college as long as it was at Texas A&M.”
In 1948, after earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering, Bob Nichols joined Freese & Nichols in Fort Worth, where he became a nationally recognized leader in the profession. He had a 67-year career at the firm and was still going into the office until his death.
Mr. Nichols, 88, died Friday in Arlington.
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Mr. Nichols was born June 24, 1926, to Marvin and Ethel Nichols in Amarillo. He was a graduate of Fort Worth’s Paschal High School.
Freese and Nichols’ roots date to 1894 to a firm started by John Hawley, an engineer who specialized in water and sewer work. Marvin Nichols joined the firm in 1927, the same year as Simon Freese. The company later became known as Freese and Nichols.
When it incorporated in 1977, Bob Nichols became vice president, serving in that role for three years and as executive vice president for eight more, the company said. He was president from 1988 to 1991 and vice chairman from 1991 to 1992. From 1992, he remained active at the firm as president emeritus. He earned his professional engineer registration in six states.
Bob Nichols was elevated to partner in 1950, the same year Jim Nichols joined the firm. Bob Nichols’ son, Michael Nichols, also an engineer, is the company’s chief marketing officer and senior vice president, and his grandson, W. Robert Nichols, is marketing graphics coordinator.
Bob Nichols focused on environmental engineering, coordinating numerous large-scale, multidiscipline and multiconsultant projects, the company said. These included water and wastewater treatment plants, wastewater collection systems, water distribution systems, and drainage master plans.
“He was a good engineer,” Jim Nichols said. “A strong and ethical person. He was extremely well-thought-of. He was a wonderful brother and I will miss him very much.”
Bob Pence, Freese and Nichols CEO and president, said: “Bob was a tireless advocate for ethics in engineering. Even recently, well past when most men would have retired, he was still traveling all over the state to teach ethics. Thanks to Bob’s work, we can be confident that the engineers who design our pipelines, bridges and airports are being held to the highest standards of integrity.”
Michael Nichols said his father loved to travel, with Scotland being a favorite spot. He was planning to take a granddaughter there this year and two nephews on a river cruise in Oregon this month, he said.
“He was a good man,” Michael Nichols said. “He made his mark and touched a lot of people.”
About 20 years ago, Mr. Nichols and his wife, Frances, moved to Webb City, Mo., to live with a daughter. There he served on the City Council and with the Webb City Chamber of Commerce. The couple moved back to Arlington to live with a son.
Other survivors include daughter Eileen of Webb City, Mo.; son Bill Nichols of Arlington; six grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
Sandra Baker, 817-390-7727
▪ 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Central United Methodist Church, 5 S. Pennsylvania St. in Webb City.
▪ 4 to 6 p.m. May 21 at Arborlawn United Methodist Church, 5001 Briarhaven Road, Fort Worth.
▪ Donations suggested to the Bobby Nichols Jr. Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 1, Webb City, MO 64870.