J. Kelly Nix

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James Kelly Nix
Louisiana Superintendent of Education
In office
1976–1984
Preceded by Louis J. Michot
Succeeded by Thomas G. Clausen
Personal details
Born (1934-10-06) October 6, 1934 (age 80)
Place of birth missing

Reared in Oak Grove
West Carroll Parish, Louisiana, USA

Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Jo'Ann K. Nix
Children Kevin Patrick Nix (deceased)

Elizabeth Nix Bond
Emily Nix
Jennifer Nix Marionneaux

Parents T. J. and Lillian O. Nix
Residence Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA
Alma mater Oak Grove High School

University of Louisiana at Monroe
Louisiana State University

Occupation Businessman; former educator
Religion Episcopalian
Military service
Service/branch United States Army

James Kelly Nix (born October 6, 1934) is a businessman in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, who was from 1976 to 1984 the Louisiana Superintendent of Education, then an elected position. The superintendent is now appointed by the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education based on a recommendation from the governor.

Background[edit]

Nix was reared and probably born in Oak Grove in West Carroll Parish in northeastern Louisiana. He is a son of T. J. Nix (1904-1971) and Lillian O. Nix (1905-1973), who are interred at the Oak Grove Cemetery.[1]

Nix graduated in 1953 from Oak Grove High School.[2] He served in the United States Army from 1955 to 1957. He received a bachelor's degree from what is now the University of Louisiana at Monroe, then known as Northeast Louisiana State College, and a master's and further graduate studies from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. From 1962 to 1965, after he left LSU, he was a researcher for the Public Affairs Research Council, a "good government" interest group headed at the time by Edward J. Steimel, later with the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry. From 1965 to 1968, he taught public administration at the college level. From 1969 to 1971, Nix was the executive director for the North Delta Regional Planning and Development District in Monroe.[3]

Nix and his wife, Jo'Ann, have three daughters, Elizabeth Nix Bond and husband Harold, Emily Nix Ard (born 1967), and Jennifer Nix Marionneaux (born 1969) and husband Brad Paul Marionneaux. Their son, Kevin Patrick Nix (1965-2012), was a paramedic in Houston, Texas, until his death at the age of forty-seven.[4]

Political life[edit]

In 1971, Nix left the Delta Economic Development District to enter the political area. He was the manager of field organization for former U.S. Representative Gillis William Long of Louisiana's 8th congressional district, since disbanded, in Long's second unsuccessful attempt to win the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. The victor and subsequent governor, Edwin Edwards, invited Nix in 1972 to become his executive assistant. In 1974, Edwards elevated Nix to chief executive assistant with duties including liaison with the state congressional delegation,[5] which once again included Representative Gillis Long, who returned to Congress for a second stint from 1973 until his death in 1985, and also two Republican members, David C. Treen and Henson Moore.

In 1975, Nix unseated fellow Democrat Louis J. Michot of Lafayette for the position of education superintendent. In 1979, he defeated in a mult-candidate field his strongest challenger, another fellow Democrat, Thomas G. Clausen of Baton Rouge,[6] who would succeed Nix as superintendent in 1984. The Louisiana school superintendent, though no longer elected, is considered a powerful position in the state, having once been held by such figures as T. H. Harris, Shelby M. Jackson, and Bill Dodd.

Controversies[edit]

In his second term as superintendent under then Governor David Treen, Nix sided against those pursuing the creation science agenda in the writing and teaching of science. The Louisiana Balanced Treatment Act, signed into law in 1981 by Treen, required public school districts to offer equal consideration of creation and the theory of evolution. Nix deemed the act unconstitutional and refused to enforce it. The United States Supreme Court subsequently held in 1987 in Edwards v. Aguillard that creation science constitutes a religion and is prohibited in public education under the court's interpretation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution[7]

Scandal involving two of Nix's assistants rocketed his administration in July 1981. Charles Edgar Thompson (1932-1993), the deputy superintendent for special education and a native and former superintendent of Tensas Parish, and Henry Leroy Smith, Jr. (1931-2012), originally from North Carolina, was from 1976 to 1982 the assistant superintendent for special education,[8] Thompson and Smith were indicted on ten counts by a grand jury in Baton Rouge in an alleged kickback scheme. The two were charged with shaking down the International Management System of Missouri to pay a percentage of its contract price from the state of Louisiana into a pool or a "kitty" in which the money was divided among Thompson, Smith, and a third man, Edward G. Ackal, a businessman from Lafayette,[9] whose company Educational Products Corporation was engaged in the sale of goods and services to the state government.[10]

The grand jury claimed that Thompson, Smith, and Ackal conspired to split $360,000 of an $889,000 contract to International Management System. The contract was issued to test thirty thousand preschool children to determine how many qualified for expanded special education under terms of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975. All three were found guilty of defrauding the taxpayers, lost their appeals before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans, and served prison sentences.[10][11]

Defeat in 1983[edit]

The creation science dispute and the Thompson-Smith-Ackal scandal may have worked against Nix politically. He was unseated as superintendent in the primary election held on October 22, 1983, by his previous rival, Thomas Clausen. Since leaving the superintendency in 1984, Nix has been the president of J. Kelly Nix and Associates, a firm involved in commercial real estate in both Louisiana and Mississippi.[12]

Year later in 2011, Nix was inducted into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame in Winnfield.[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Oak Grove Cemetery". files.usgwarchives.net. Retrieved October 7, 2013. 
  2. ^ "Oak Grove High School (Class of 1953)". tree52.com. Retrieved October 7, 2013. 
  3. ^ "J. Kelly Nix, p. 19". parlouisiana.org. Retrieved October 7, 2013. 
  4. ^ "Kevin Patrick Nix". Baton Rouge Morning Advocate. Retrieved October 7, 2013. 
  5. ^ a b "J. Kelly Nix". lapoliticalmuseum.com. Retrieved October 7, 2013. 
  6. ^ "Thomas Clausen Death Records". death-record.com. Retrieved October 7, 2013. 
  7. ^ Pamela Winnick, A Jealous God: Science's Crusade Against Religion, p. 146. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2005; ISBN 1-5955-5019-4. Retrieved October 7, 2013. 
  8. ^ "Henry L. Smith". Baton Rouge Morning Advocate, February 5, 2012. Retrieved March 10, 2014. 
  9. ^ "Nix keeps deputies on payroll,", Minden Press-Herald, July 31, 1981, p. 1
  10. ^ a b "UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Edward G. ACKAL, Henry L. Smith and C. E. "Ed" Thompson, Defendants-Appellants. No. 82-3243. United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit. May 23, 1983. Rehearings and Rehearing En Banc Denied July 18, 1983". openjurist.org. Retrieved March 10, 2014. 
  11. ^ "Click Edward G. Ackal, Henry L. Smith, and Charles E. Thompson for prison release dates of December 20, 1985, January 2, 1986, and January 23, 1986, respectively". Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved March 10, 2014. 
  12. ^ "J. Kelly Nix's overview". linkedin.com. Retrieved October 7, 2013. 
Preceded by
Louis J. Michot
Louisiana State Superintendent of Education

James Kelly Nix
1976–1984

Succeeded by
Thomas G. Clausen