Last updated 11/16/2023 at 11:33am
Claude Nichols, a well-known professor of History at Eastern Washington University passed away Nov. 5, 2023 in Spokane, Wash. at the age of 93. Claude Woodson Nichols, Jr. ("Nick") was born Oct. 6, 1930 in Reno, Nev., the son of Augusta Curler and Claude Woodson Nichols, Sr. and the grandson of early Nev. pioneers.
Claude was an active youth, learning to hunt waterfowl and fly-fish with his "Pop" in the lakes, rivers and streams of the area. He even learned to tie his own flies, and his love of fishing lasted his lifetime. While at the University of Nevada he met and fell in love with fellow student Marilyn Mills, a farm girl from Logandale, Nev.
Upon his graduation he transferred to the University of Oregon where he earned his Master's Degree in History in two quarters and a summer session.
Having been commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Army at the U of N, he was called to active duty in 1953. On June 6, 1953 he married Marilyn in her hometown and then honeymooned across the country before reporting in at Fort Benning, Ga.
His first permanent assignment was Fort Lewis, Wash., where he was deployed to the interior of Ala. and charged with teaching 100 soldiers to survive amid winter conditions. He arrived home in time to greet his firstborn daughter Mary-Lynn.
Once the Korean conflict ended, Nick returned to the U of O and completed a PhD in History, and found his first job teaching at a small college in South Dakota. He was recruited by Eastern Washington State College (now EWU) in 1961, where he taught for 35 years.
He loved the contact with his students and met personally with all his seniors, even if he was not their advisor. He was awarded two Fulbright grants, first a summer in Mexico and then a fall quarter in Egypt. Claude volunteered many hours to EWU, serving as head finish judge for the track team and being on the scoring table for both women's and men's basketball.
He took up running while at Eastern and participated in several community races and a marathon during EXPO '74 in Spokane. When his knees began to give him trouble, he began riding his bike and pedaled across Wash. 100 miles at a time.
Family meant everything to Claude and family vacations often included fishing as well as camping near historical sites. He was an excellent fisherman and provided many meals with his catches, causing some of his children to claim they have eaten enough fish for several lifetimes.
Claude became known as the fishing professor at EWU; it was rumored there was a second campus at the Grande Ronde River down in Asotin County. When he retired from the University his gift was a beautiful engraved fly-fishing rod which he loved to use.
Seven children were born to Claude and Marilyn during their 70 years of marriage. He is preceded in death by his son, Ben (Jackie) Nichols of Clarkston, in May 2023.
Claude is survived by his six children, MaryLynn Nichols of Cheney, Claude Nichols III (Janna) of Vancouver, Molly Matthews (John) of Lynnwood, Bob Nichols (Carlene) of Anacortes, Tom Nichols (Andrea) of Lynden, and Genie Nichols of Yellowstone National Park.
He is survived by 21 grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren. Claude will be buried in the Washington State Veterans Cemetery, Medical Lake, Wash. on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023 at 1:00 pm. Visitors are to assemble at the Administration Building at 12:45 pm.
A Celebration of Life service will be held Friday, Nov. 17, at 11:00 am at the Cheney Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Building at 2536 North 6th Street. In lieu of flowers, please make contributions to EWU History Department Scholarships.