When Jim Nicholson joined the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS) in 1972, Americans were fighting a war in Southeast Asia and the last Apollo mission went to the moon.
After a tour in Vietnam, Nicholson left the military and began his OKDHS career as a social worker. In 1988, he became a programs administrator in the Developmental Disabilities Services Division (DDSD) and was named division director in 1991.
Effective Jan. 31, 2013, Nicholson retired from OKDHS after four decades of service to the people of Oklahoma. He was the longest tenured DDSD director in the country.
“Jim became our leader when we were a small division struggling with a federal lawsuit, (Homeward Bound v. Hissom Memorial Center)” says JoAnne Goin, incoming Director of DDSD. “His commitment to making the system work for our families has led Oklahoma to be nationally known for its services to people with intellectual disabilities. As the most tenured development disabilities director in the nation, his legacy in Oklahoma - and nationally - will be with us for years to come.”
Nicholson was an active member of the National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services. He holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Oklahoma and a Bachelor of Arts degree from St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota.
"Under Jim's leadership we have been able to offer services that improve the lives of persons with disabilities and their families," says Mark Lawton Jones, OKDHS Chief Coordinating Officer. "Jim brought the service delivery system through its developmental years and he leaves OKDHS with programs in excellent shape."
Nicholson plans to spend more time with his family, grandchildren, and beloved yellow lab retriever, Grace, and to remain active with the Animal Rescue Friends of Nichols Hills and Oklahoma People First, a non-profit advocacy group for Oklahomans with developmental disabilities.