Former state senator Jonathan Nichols, who represented Norman's State Senate District 15 from 2000 until he termed out in 2012, has died.
Nichols, who was working as a senior policy advisor to Oklahoma House Speaker Charles McCall at the time of his death, served as the University of Oklahoma's vice president of governmental relations from 2016 to 2018.
“Sen. Jonathan Nichols was the most brilliant political, legal mind in the Oklahoma State Legislature, and worked tirelessly as a senator and for years on staff to help guide our state forward," Sen. Rob Standridge, who was elected to represent SD 15 after Nichols termed out, said in a released statement. "Jonathan was a great friend, a mentor, a confidant, and was always there for me in whatever situation I was in.
"From political advice to a sounding board for each other’s challenges in life, my friendship with Jonathan touched every aspect of my life, and I will miss him dearly. Talitha and their daughters are in our prayers, and we ask all those in Senate District 15 and in the state to say a prayer of thanks for Sen. Nichols’ service and a prayer of support for his grieving family.”
Nichols graduated from OU with his juris doctorate in 1993. He worked as an attorney and as an assistant district attorney in Cleveland County.
"Jonathan Nichols was my dear friend and neighbor. He was a quiet, highly effective servant of the people. He distinguished himself in his ability to work across the aisle to try and make lives better," said Keith Gaddie, OU executive faculty fellow, colleague and Nichols' friend.
According to Norman police, Nichols was found dead in his house from an apparent gunshot wound Wednesday evening. Police are working with the state medical examiner's office to determine the exact time and cause of death. He was 53 years old.
Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman heard about Nichols' death during a break in the opioid trial he is presiding over.
"I just had lunch with him on Monday and we reminisced about our shared experiences at the state Capitol and the courthouse. He was very proud that his oldest daughter has just completed her first year of law school," he said. "We became friends campaigning together in 2000. My house and his senate district overlapped and he was my state senator.
"In addition to working together on Norman and OU legislation, we worked together to protect personal privacy against government overreach. He and I worked to amend a bill so that the government could not keep fingerprint information that’s collected when you apply for a drivers license."
Cleveland County Republican Party Chairman Dave Spaulding said "Oklahoma has lost a tremendous asset and political mind."
"We are all deeply saddened to hear of the passing of former Senator Jonathan Nichols," he said. "We offer our deepest condolences to his family and friends."