Tri-City Ledger -

By Joe Thomas
Ledger Editor 

Friends say Nichols loved by all

Atmore native home for Thanksging killed in fiery crash Friday; close friends held a bond


December 5, 2019

Courtesy Photo


Shock, disbelief and the feeling it was some kind of bad dream is the way friends of Randell Gordon Nichols, Jr., felt when word began to spread over the weekend that the 28-year old Atmore native had been killed in a fiery crash early Friday morning.

According to information released by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, the crash occurred about 2:45 p.m. Friday on Deere Creek Road. The report stated the vehicle left the roadway, struck a tree and then caught on fire.

Nichols was the only occupant in the vehicle and pronounced dead at the scene.

Friends and family will gather at 4 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 5, at the Hodnette Auditorium on the campus of Escambia County High School in Atmore for a celebration of Nichols' life.

Elliott Faircloth said he had known Nichols all his life; they went through Boy Scouts together, graduated together from Escambia County High School in 2009 and were together at the University of Alabama where they were both members of the Sigma Chi fraternity.

"He was a groomsman in my wedding," Faircloth said. "He was my right hand man for a long time."

Faircloth said Nichols had a huge circle of friends and met new friends everywhere he went.

"He celebrated his friends' victories more than his own," Faircloth said. "He was very loyal. Every time he came back to Atmore he went by to see all his friends."

Nichols was a resident of Birmingham and was back in Atmore to celebrate Thanksgiving with his family and friends.

"He cared about you and your situation more than his own," Faircloth said. "He loved to hunt and fish, but he never killed a duck or deer, he was just there to be with friends. The fellowship was more important to him."

Faircloth said when they all realized it was Nichols who had died in the crash they were all in shock.

"We got together, laughed, cried and told stories," Faircloth said. "We're looking forward to seeing him again."

Like Faircloth, Tray Smith said he'd known Nichols all his life.

"I can't remember when I met him because we were babies," Smith said.

Smith also graduated from ECHS in 2009 with Nichols.

"He was a great guy," Smith said. "He could light up a room by just being there. He was always the life of the party and brought people together."

Smith said Nichols could instantly create a friendship and cared a lot about his friends and family and that Nichols had the closest brother and sister relationship he'd every seen in Nichols' love of his sister Walton.

Although Smith lives in Houston, he said he and Nichols texted back and forth regularly and they always got together when he came back to Alabama.

Smith came back to Atmore Wednesday night and the two got together and texted each other Thursday.

He said when people couldn't get in touch with Nichols Friday he knew something was wrong.

"It wasn't like him," Smith said. "He always stayed in touch with his mother and his friends. Later Friday night I found out."

He said probably when you grow up in a small town it makes it worse because everybody knows everybody.

"Everybody loved Gordon," Smith said. "It's how close the community is. He had a huge circle of friends and kept in touch with so many people. It's awful and will leave a void in a lot of hearts."

Kyle Parish said he and Nichols met each other in elementary school and played PeeWee football together. When he went to ECHS in the 11th grade, Nichols was in the 10th.

"We played football together at high school and became real tight," he said. "We used to ride bikes together. Whereever I was you could just about count on Gordon was there with me."

Parish said he went to work after high school but he and Nichols always stayed in touch and got together often.

"When he came home from college he made sure to see you before he went back to school," Parish said.

He said he now has a 2-month old daughter and Nichols called him the day she was born.

"He was always uplifting," Parish said. "When I found out my wife was pregnant Gordon and Elliott were the first two people I called."

This past weekend he, Nichols and other friends had planned to get together to watch the Iron Bowl but those plans fell apart early Friday morning.

"I cried my eyes out Friday and Saturday," Parish said. "It's still hard to believe. He was such a good person and a great friend. Words can't explain what Gordon meant to so many people."

After graduating from ECHS, Nichols attended Marion Military Institute for one year before transferring to the University of Alabama. He graduated with a degree in marketing and a concentration in real estate.

Always wanting to help, Nichols began working at a local veterinary clinic at the age of 11 and continued until he graduated high school. He was a lifelong member of the First United Methodist Church in Atmore.

Nichols is preceeded in death by his paternal grandparents, Isham Gordon 'I.G' (Joyce) Nichols, Jr.; and his maternal grandfather, Hal Knox Waller, Jr.

He is survived by his parents, Melissa and Randell Gordon Nichols, Sr.; his sister, Ann Walton Knox Nichols; and his grandmother, Ann Walton Waller, all of Atmore.


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