Edmund L. Nichols, 78, is a native of Throckmorton, Texas, is a 1953 graduate of Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene and of UT Austin where he received a master's degree in 1957. He was named an H-SU Distinguished Alumnus in 2000 and also of Throckmorton High School in 2006 for accomplishments during his long career in public service that began in the mid-1950's. Mr. Nichols was for a number of years Assistant Texas Commissioner of Agriculture for governmental affairs and administration. He was instrumental in launching the Texas Agricultural Products (TAP) export marketing program and traveled to Japan and Europe to open markets for such high quality Texas products as Ruby Red grapefruit and beef. He led TAP delegations to other states, hosting the first "Taste of Texas" events to promote high value foods produced and manufactured in Texas.
In 1977, Mr. Nichols was appointed Assistant Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington. In that Federal post he traveled widely, including a 1978 trip to China preparatory to normalization of U.S.-China trade relations. That same year, Mr. Nichols joined the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service where he served on the President's Export Policy Task Force and was named as a charter member of the U.S. Senior Executive Service. He worked with Texas Congressman Bob Poage, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, to pass the U.S. Agricultural Trade Act of 1978, an act highly important to Texas and farm product exporting states. That act also improved diplomatic status of U.S. agricultural officials abroad and gave the U.S. Department of Agriculture an important voice in international trade policy representation. Also in 1978, he represented U.S. agriculture in the first trade mission to China, well before full normalization of U.S.-Chinese trade relations.
In 1979, Mr. Nichols was appointed U.S. Agricultural Counselor to Italy, assigned to the American Embassy in Rome, and was commissioned by President Reagan to the rank of Minister-Counselor in the U.S. Senior Foreign Service. He then served as Agricultural Counselor to Denmark and Norway and twice as Agricultural Counselor to Spain. In 1982, Mr. Nichols was decorated by the President of Italy as Commendatore of the Italian Republic for his role in advancing U.S.-Italian trade relations. As an example, in exchange for allowing certain unique Italian products into the U.S., Nichols persuaded the Italian Minister of Agriculture to hold the line on tariffs that, if raised, would have cost U.S. farmers millions of dollars in farm exports to Europe.
From 1989 to 1992 Nichols was Agricultural Minister-Counselor to the U.S. Mission to the European Communities in Brussels. During his years in Europe, Mr. Nichols also served as chairman of the NATO Food and Agriculture Planning Committee, an official group whose mission was to plan for food security for Europe and America in the event of war. He has language skills in Italian, French and Spanish. He retired from government service in late 1993.
Mr. Nichols was married in 1964 to Sandra Heiligman of Overton, Texas. Their three adult children, Dr. Jill E. Nichols, James E. Nichols and Kelly Nichols Jones, were educated in high schools in Europe and U.S. colleges, universities and advanced professional schools. All the family, including six grandchildren ranging in ages from 2 to 15, live in Austin where Edmund and Sandy retired in 1994 following their Senior Foreign Service years. Ed retains his interest in and occasionally speaks on U.S. agricultural trade policy. Ed and Sandy, a CPA, are also active in UT LAMP, a continuing education program of UT Austin.