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Horace Elmo Nichols

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Horace Elmo Nichols
Chief Justice Horace Elmo Nichols.jpg
Born(1912-07-16)July 16, 1912
DiedJune 8, 2000(2000-06-08) (aged 87)
Alma materCumberland University
OccupationLawyer and Judge
Years active1935–80
Known forModernizing and streamlining Georgia's judicial system
TitleChief Justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia
Political partyDemocratic Party
Spouse(s)Edith Mae Bowers
ChildrenNancy Bates Nichols Glenn
Carol Elizabeth Nichols Henwood
H. E. Nichols, Jr.
Parent(s)Mr. and Mrs. William Henry Nichols

Horace Elmo Nichols (July 16, 1912 – June 8, 2000), also known as H. E. "Nick" Nichols,[2][3] was an American jurist in Georgia who served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia from 1975 to 1980.

Personal life

Nichols was born in Elkmont, Alabama to Mr. and Mrs. William Henry Nichols.[4] He attended public school in Birmingham. [1][5] His early training in piano and voice resulted in a lifelong love of music.[6]

He married Edith Mae Bowers in October 1945. They had two daughters and a son. Mrs. Nichols died in May 1984.


He received his Bachelor of Law degree from the Cumberland School of Law while it was part of Cumberland University at Lebanon, Tennessee. He later studied constitutional law at Columbia University.[1][5] He was a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and Blue Key Honor Society.


He was admitted to the State Bar of Georgia in December 1935 and began practicing law in Canton, Georgia. In 1938, he became Assistant Solicitor of the Blue Ridge Circuit in Georgia where he served until 1940 when he moved to Rome, Georgia. After practicing law for six years in Rome, he was appointed Assistant Attorney General of Georgia, serving two years. On October 18, 1948, he was appointed Judge of the Superior Court for the Rome Circuit. At the expiration of the appointment, he was elected to a full term.

In 1952, the Atlanta Constitution published stories regarding a Floyd County court's handling of some traffic tickets. Judge Nichols took exception to accusations of the court's mishandling of the cases.[7] After the Constitution refused to publish information the Judge wanted added, he found Ralph McGill and William Fields in contempt of court and sentenced each to 20 days in jail plus a two hundred dollar fine. McGill was a nationally prominent editor and the story was carried by Time magazine.[8] The contempt citation was reversed by the Supreme Court of Georgia in January 1953.[9] He continued as Superior Court Judge until January 15, 1954 when Governor Herman E. Talmadge appointed him to the Court of Appeals of Georgia.[1][5]

In November 1966, after twelve years on the Court of Appeals, Governor Carl E. Sanders appointed Nichols as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia. In 1975 he became Chief Justice and served until retiring in December 1980.[1][6] In 1982 he became one of a group of fourteen prominent people who helped establish and founded the Georgia State University College of Law offering an American Bar Association accredited evening curriculum. He died in Atlanta on June 8, 2000 after having suffered a stroke.

Clubs and organizations

Judge Nichols was a member of the Piedmont Driving Club, the Capital City Club, the Coosa Country Club, Gridiron Secret Society, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, and Woodmen of the World.


He was known for his support of the death penalty, but his most lasting legacy was the elevation of the Georgia judiciary to a higher level of professionalism and respect. Upon becoming Chief Justice, he insisted on the judiciary receiving the same respect as the executive and legislative branches of government. His development of a unified appeal process in death penalty cases helped to eliminate delays in executing sentences. He allowed both cameras and tape recorders in the courtroom so that the public could have a better understanding of the work of the judiciary.[6]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Court of Appeals of Georgia: Horace Elmo Nichols, 1954–1966". Retrieved July 24, 2013.
  2. ^ "The Political Graveyard: Politicians who Died in Hospices". Retrieved July 26, 2013.
  3. ^ "Supreme Court of Georgia – CHIEF JUSTICES AND JUSTICES, 1845 – Present". Retrieved July 26, 2013.
  4. ^ "Rome News-Tribune". Engagement of Miss Nichols to Mr. Henwood is announced. September 9, 1973. p. 13. Retrieved July 25, 2013.
  5. ^ a b c Georgia Official and Statistical Register – 1973, p. PA760, at Google Books
  6. ^ a b c "Rome News Tribune". Horace Elmo Nichols. June 14, 2000. p. 3. Retrieved July 25, 2013.
  7. ^ "Rome News-Tribune". Jurist Charges Inaccurate Reporting to Atlanta Paper. April 23, 1952. p. 1. Retrieved July 26, 2013.
  8. ^ "The Press: The Constitution & the Judge". Time. 59 (May 12, 1952): 50. May 1952.
  9. ^ "Decision Reversed". Time. 61 (January 26, 1953): 76. January 1953.
Preceded by
Benning M. Grice
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia
Succeeded by
Hiram K. Undercofler
This page was last edited on 14 March 2019, at 13:02
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