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November 18, 2020

Philadelphia Bar Association Calls for Pa. Judicial Center to Be Renamed for Former Chief Justice Robert N. C. Nix, Jr.

The honor would ensure that Chief Justice Robert N.C. Nix’s tireless efforts will be recognized and memorialized for generations to come.

The Philadelphia Bar Association is among the organizations calling for the Pennsylvania Justice Center in Harrisburg to be renamed for former state Supreme Court Chief Justice the late Robert N. C. Nix, Jr.

Nix, who served as chief justice from 1984 to 1996, was the first Black person in the nation to hold the position. He was appointed associate justice by Gov. Milton Shapp in 1971 and after being elected to the position in a landslide victory in 1972 became the first Black associate justice of the state Supreme Court and the first Black person to hold statewide office in Pennsylvania.

“Chief Justice Nix devoted his time, talents, energy and efforts to championing civil rights and promoting equality and justice in all forms,” says Chancellor Hon. A. Michael Snyder (ret.) “His tireless efforts should be recognized and memorialized for generations to come. We believe his legacy is best commemorated by renaming the Pennsylvania Justice Center in his honor.”

Nix, who was the son of Robert N.C. Nix, Sr., Pennsylvania’s first Black Congressman, attended Philadelphia Public Schools and earned his bachelor’s degree in philosophy at Villanova University, graduating in 1950 as valedictorian. He earned his J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1953 and then served in the U.S. Army from 1953-55. He completed post-graduate studies in business administration and economics at Temple University.

He passed the Pennsylvania bar exam in 1956, at a time when the test was highly discriminatory. Nix was one of the first Black deputy attorney generals in Pennsylvania and would later join his father and a colleague in private practice. Their firm, Nix, Rhodes & Nix, was one of the few Black firms of the era and the only one to have offices on South 15th Street because of discriminatory rental practices in Center City at the time. Nix was elected to the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas in 1967. He died in 2003 at age 75.

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