This blog post was written by Amanda Fisher, Poage Library project archivist.
Have you ever considered that a music education degree could lead to an exciting agricultural diplomacy career in some of Europe’s finest cities? It sounds crazy, but that is exactly how Edmund L. Nichols’ life unfolded. Hailing from Throckmorton, Texas, Nichols grew to be quite the world traveler. Here at the Poage Library, we are fortunate to have the Edmund L. Nichols papers, and are proud to announce their opening. We’ll give you just a taste of the fascinating story they tell.
Upon graduation from Throckmorton High School in 1949, Nichols attended Hardin-Simmons University to study music while also working for the Abilene Reporter-News. By 1955, he was hired by a news wire service to cover the Texas legislative session and inauguration of Governor Allan Shivers. This experience in journalism was the key to the beginnings of his career in agriculture. John C. White, Texas Agricultural Commissioner, hired Nichols to work as a technical writer.
Nichols also earned his masters in music education from the University of Texas during this time, worked in Hawaii for a couple of years, and then re-joined the Department of Texas Agriculture as White’s Administrative Assistant and then Assistant Commissioner. In 1977, White assumed the position of Deputy Secretary of Agriculture for the United States, and Nichols followed as the Assistant Deputy Secretary. After a year, he joined the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) and sought out a diplomatic appointment.
Fortunately, a post in Rome, Italy opened for Nichols, so he and his family packed up and moved to the Eternal City. One gets the sense through the correspondence in the collection that this remained the city favorited most by the Nichols family. During their three years in Rome, Nichols worked as the U.S. Agricultural Counselor to Italy, successfully advancing U.S. trade relations with the Italians, convincing the Italian Minister of Agriculture to hold back on duties, especially regarding American grapefruit and California almonds. Thus, the Italian President decorated Nichols as Commendatore, a high honorific title. We can also thank Nichols for being able to enjoy Italian prosciutto in the United States!
In 1982, the Nichols family transferred to Copenhagen where Nichols served as the U.S. Agricultural Counselor to Denmark and Norway. Nichols had the opportunity to see Lapland in far northern Scandinavia, visiting the semi-nomadic peoples and reindeer. Then, in 1985, the Nichols moved back to southern Europe to complete an appointment in Madrid, Spain. In 1989, Nichols assumed the role of U.S. Agricultural Minister-Counselor, U.S. Mission to the European Communities, in Brussels, Belgium. Finally, he returned to Madrid once more as U.S. Agricultural Counselor before retirement in 1993. Throughout his European service, Nichols also served as the chairman of the NATO Food and Agriculture Planning Committee.