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David L. Nixon

David L. Nixon
Status: Deceased

(1932 - 2014)

Dave Nixon applied to Harvard Law School ("my only choice - I didn't know much about law schools") and was rejected. He then got into his car and drove ten hours in the rain from Ft. Meade, Maryland to Cambridge, Massachusetts to "plead my case with the Harvard Dean of Admissions." The Dean listened to his story about being a disabled Army vet (after a training mishap left him blind in one eye), married, an honor student, class president, and football co-captain at Wesleyan, and then told Dave, "That's very interesting, Mr. Nixon, but in the opinion of 'The Law School' you do not have the makings of a good lawyer." Dave had been admitted to Harvard as an undergrad but decided to go to Wesleyan instead, so he thought "Harvard and I are now even." Dave went on to attend law school at the University of Michigan where he excelled.

Dave practiced the Yankee tradition of law that was at once pragmatic and idealistic - the kind of advocacy that many fear represents a bygone era when rational problem-solving was based on respect, trust, and fairness. Here is a report in Daves own words about the case that allowed him admittance into the Inner Circle:

I guess the most memorable individual case I had was in 1976 a 2-1/2-year-old boy who went into the Portsmouth Hospital for removal of a growth on his tongue and had to be suctioned. He had a tube in his throat and there was a shift change of the nurses and the tube clogged and nobody cleaned it out. And he, in effect, died and he was out for about 20 minutes and then the doctor was called and finally resuscitated him and got him breathing again. But by then he was in a coma, which he was in for about three months. And come to find out, the boy had leiomyocarcinoma, the most virulent form of cancer known at that time. The parents got him away after three months and took him to the Dana Farber center, where they cured the cancer. But the boy was left spastic, blind, deaf I tried that case and the jury came in with a verdict of $1.5 million, which was the biggest one in New England at the time. And (the parents) took the money that they got from that settlement and adopted two more disabled children and raised them together with their son and his healthy brother. That made me feel good. Made me feel like a lawyer like a lawyer should feel.

In 1968, Dave left his practice for a time to serve as a representative to the New Hampshire Legislature and was named Outstanding First Year Legislator in 1969. Dave gained political prominence in the 1970s as a leader of the liberal wing of the Republican Party under former Gov. Walter Peterson. He served as Senate president in 1973-74, then ran against conservative Gov. Mel Thomson in the Republican primary of 1974 and was defeated. Dave became a Democrat in 1986. Following the impeachment and Senate acquittal of Chief Justice David Brock in 2000, Nixon represented Brock in the unsuccessful suit for state compensation for the chief justices legal expenses.

Dave was a great champion of the little guy, the jury trial, and our democracy. He died on November 1, 2014, following a long and well-fought fight with cancer.
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