Robert Nix Jr.

By: Cerone White

On this day in history, July 13, 1928, Robert Nelson Cornelius Nix Jr. was born. Nix was the first African-American chief justice of a state Supreme Court and served as Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court from 1984 – 1996. This feat was the first time that an African American was elected to a statewide office in Pennsylvania. Nix served as a justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania for 24 years, 12 of which were as chief justice.

Nix was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His grandfather was Nelson Cornelius Nix, who was born into slavery but eventually became a minister and an academic dean of South Carolina State College in Orangeburg. After graduating from Central High School, Villanova University and the University of Pennsylvania, Nix Joined the U.S. Army where he spent two years before becoming a Deputy Attorney General in 1956.

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After a successful law career filled with many ups and downs, he retired two years prior to his mandatory retirement, citing that “It is time for me to walk away and smell the daisies.” Nix died on August 23, 2003, in Philadelphia, after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.