James Robert “Jim Bob” or “JR” Nicholl was a Renaissance man and a scholar. His interests included
golf, trains, genealogy, fishing, competitive trail riding, Shakespeare, cowboy culture, politics, tractors,
stocks, foreign languages, farming, military organizations, beekeeping, writing and editing. He is
survived by a library of thousands of books. He kept hundreds of index cards and printouts of other
books he wanted to read tucked away throughout his office, as he was always eager to learn.
A native Texan, JR attended Plainview High School and remained close with several of his classmates,
enjoying several high school reunions over the years. He received his undergraduate degree at the
University of Texas at Austin and then joined the Army, serving in the German Intelligence Branch. After
completing his stint in the Army, JR obtained his PhD in English from UT-Austin.
While he was in the Army, he met a charming young woman at a military ball, and they danced the night
away. Within a year, he married Kathleen “Kathy” Martin, and they honeymooned in the Great Smoky
Mountains. After he completed his PhD, he began working in the English Department at Western
Carolina University, in Cullowhee, NC, near the Blue Ridge Parkway. He and Kathy soon built a house on
property that included a farm where they could raise horses that they would eventually ride in
competitions. He was immensely proud of his two children and two grandchildren, who dubbed him
Greatest Dad in the World and Best Grandpa Ever.
JR co-authored an English textbook entitled “Rhetorical Models for Effective Writing” that was used at
WCU and other universities. He served for many years as head of the WCU English Department, then
retired to enjoy two full decades of living in the beautiful Cullowhee mountains. He formed lasting
bonds with his WCU colleagues and maintained his connection to the university long after retirement.
He was a member of the American Legion, where he received the 2017 Adjutant of the Year award for
his services as secretary/treasurer for over a decade. He supported military cadets at Texas A&M
University with scholarships, corresponding with them for several years as they completed their studies.
He was an active member of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Sylva in the last decade of his life,
participating in study groups, reading Bible passages during services, and serving as a greeter. At his
request, he was cremated in the cap and gown he regularly wore to WCU commencement ceremonies.
JR was preceded in death by his wife, Kathy, and brother Pat.
He is survived by his daughter, Emily Nicholl (Phil Hopfner) of Monterey, CA; his son, Matthew Nicholl (Jill Ludwig) of Summerville, SC; his beloved grandchildren, Austin and Lily; two sisters; four nieces; and six nephews.
To quote JR’s favorite author, William Shakespeare, “Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.” (All’s Well
That Ends Well)
A memorial service will be held at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Summer 2024. In lieu of flowers,
donations in JR Nicholl’s name can be made to St. John’s Episcopal Church, P.O. Box 175, Sylva, NC