The late Robert N.C. Nix Jr. was destined for his path early on as his father was Pennsylvania’s first Black member of the U.S. House or Representatives. Nix became in the first chief justice of a state’s highest court in 1994, which also made him the first Black statewide official for the commonwealth of Pennsylvania as well.
Robert Nelson Cornelius Nix Jr. was born July 13, 1928 in Philadelphia, graduating from Villanova University as its valedictorian in 1950. Nix then entered the University of Pennsylvania where he earned his law juris doctor degree. Before entering the workforce, Nix served a short while in the U.S. Army en route to becoming Deputy Attorney General. He eventually became a partner in his father’s law firm and a notable advocate for civil rights.
Nix’s rise to become Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was not without its controversies. He was accused of being on his father’s payroll as a congressional assistant in the ’60’s while running for election as a common pleas judge in Philadelphia and working in private practice.
In 1981, Nix engaged in a public feud with fellow Justice Rolf Larsen after Larsen allegedly called him a racial slur.
Their differences continued into the ’90’s after Larsen himself was accused of misconduct that led to his impeachment in another matter, only to accuse Nix of engaging in the same improper contact with a trial judge. In 1996, Nix returned to private life, acknowledging the troubles with Larsen were “regrettable.”
Nix passed at the age of 75 in 2003, survived by his wife Renate Becker-Bryant and three sons.