Charlie R. Nichols
Gospel Preacher In Alabama & Mississippi
Charlie R. Nichols was born in Kansas, Walker County, Alabama on November 3, 1892. He was the second of ten children born to William Nichols (1868-1952) and Lizzie (Velma Elizabeth Wyers) Nichols. (1873-1954) You might describe Charlie as an Irish twin, as his elder brother, Gus (1892-1975) was born in the same year, only ten months previous on January 12th.
The Nichols family attended the Baptist church in Charlie’s early years. However, Charlie A. Wheeler (1851-1937), a preacher among churches of Christ presented a series of gospel meetings at Iron Mountain Schoolhouse in the fall of 1909. His older brother, Gus, a capable song leader among the Baptists, agreed to lead the singing for the preacher as he had promised only to preach the gospel of Jesus and nothing more. During the meeting the capable singer was touched by the simplicity of the gospel, and in the end was baptized for the forgiveness of his sins. Not long after, Charlie and younger brother Carey (1896-1974) followed their brother’s example by obeying the simple gospel.
Charlie married Lillie Hayes (1900-1992), a local girl. They had three children. Their first, Curtis, died in childhood. A daughter followed, Opal Nichols Goodman (1918-1997). And their third child was James Allen Nichols (1923-1998).
When the elder brothers were allowed to strike out on their own, it was not long before preaching was their determined work in life. In the Spring of 1919, he wrote a letter to the Firm Foundation. The editor commented, “Brother Charlie Nichols of Carbon Hill, Alabama writes that he will do a considerable amount of mission work this year. Brother Nichols should be encouraged in this work by the churches.” (FF03.25.1919.4) By May he was preaching at three different locations, Galloway, Dun Schoolhouse, and at Berea in Fayette County. (FF06.03.1919.4) In the fall, Charlie and Gus moved their families to Berry, where they began attending Alabama Christian College. After a year of study, Charlie and his family moved to Parrish, in Walker County to assist in the work there.
Early in 1923 brother Gus was offered a work in Marion County as a traveling evangelist. His wife was expecting a child, and other duties made it impossible for him to do. He reached out to his brother and asked if he was interest. So, in February Charlie moved his family to Marion County. Early on he reported, “I am giving all my time to the evangelistic work in Marion County. I will visit every home in the county.” (FF03.06.1923.5) After the following month he reported, “During the month of April, I preached forty-one sermons, visited ninety-five homes and talked to three hundred forty people on Bible subjects and baptized one. My meeting at Concord school house closed Saturday night with more than five hundred present. I began last night at the Tirey school house. The mission work in this county (Marion) is in fine condition. The brethren are standing by the work. Preach the word.” (FF05.05.1923.5)
Through the years, full-time preaching yielded little economic strength for the family. This meant Charlie had to do outside labor. He worked where he could, on the railroad, as a block-smith, a marble plant worker, and a construction foreman.
By the spring of 1926, Charlie became known for his debating skills. At that point he was living in Clay County, Mississippi, which was near the Alabama line. He had been coming back into Lamar County, Alabama at least once a month to preach at Vernon. About five miles south of Vernon was the Mount Harmony Baptist Church. In December of the previous year, the church brought in J. R. Clark, a Missionary Baptist preacher from Martin, Tennessee to meet Nichols in what the region called, “union meetings.” The success of the debate led them to invite Nichols to meet a Free-Will Baptist by the name of Luther Hollis, in July 1926. A third debate took place in September with a W. C. Austin, also a Free-Will Baptist. This led Charlie and his family to move to Vernon to preach regularly. His older brother Gus, had moved to be a county evangelist in Lamar the previous January, living a few miles south of Vernon in the railroad town of Millport. With Charlie’s move, a really “Nichols” force was in place to evangelize in west Alabama and east Mississippi.
Gus reported to the Gospel Advocate the following February, “Charlie Nichols and the writer recently closed a good meeting at Furnace Hill under the big tent belonging to the county, in which we had five baptisms and a splendid interest manifested otherwise. I am now near Vernon at another mission point.” (GA02.02.1927.105)
The following six paragraphs were taken from the biography of Gus Nichols, The Sage of Jasper,
“Sometime in the summer of 1929, Charlie suffered a severe accident. “In the days previous to modern electric clothing irons, there was a phase of development of the iron where gasoline, coal oil, or sometimes alcohol was added to a small reservoir in irons. On the end was a wick that when lit, heated the element in the iron, similar to a gas stove. It happened that while he was ironing some of his clothing that the gas iron exploded. The clothing he was wearing immediately caught flame and was soon spreading throughout the house. Very quickly, the flames from his body were extinguished. But the damage was severe. He was immediately taken to the hospital in Birmingham where he underwent several treatments for burns all over his body. Breaking the news to the brotherhood, his brother reported, “Brother Charlie Nichols is suffering from a severe burn which occurred when a gas iron exploded and burned all he had, his clothing and his books. His expenses will be heavy. Write him at the Baptist Hospital, 2nd Avenue, West End, Birmingham, Alabama. He is expected to be out of the hospital in 20 days. Send him any good book you can spare and help replace his library. Any fellowship will be appreciated at this time. His friends are requested to act in accordance with the golden rule (Matt. 7:12). (FF07.02.1929.853)
“After many weeks of treatment, he was able to return to Lamar County. But, as his family’s personal effects were lost in the fire, he had to move into his older brother’s home in Millport for a time. Convalescence continued at a slow pace, as he had lost much of the mobility in his legs. In his own hand he recounted, “My burns are healing very well, but I preach sitting down. I can walk only a few steps. The doctor says I will never be able to walk much.” (GA09.05.1929.853)
“With the help of family, Charlie gave himself to the Lord, and sought to get back to preaching as soon as he was able. Gus provided him with much encouragement, and even changed his own schedule so as to attend to preaching appointments with him. Their multiple talents made it possible to take turns preaching and leading the singing.
“Before the end of the summer, Charlie preached a meeting back at Lone Oak in Steens, Mississippi. He needed a meeting to build his confidence back, and this church was a most loved and familiar one to him, as it had been the church where he preached his first gospel meeting nine years previous. Fifteen were added to the Lord in that meeting.
“Another big test for Charlie came in the way of a debate. Back in June, and just before the accident, Gus had entered upon a discussion with a Holiness preacher in the county by the name of R. E. Higdon. Earnest Higdon lived in Millport but preached for a little Holiness church in Kennedy. In the debate, “He affirmed the direct work of the Spirit in conversion, the continuation of miracles, signs of healing etc., that the Spirit directly dwells in and guides the child of God, independent of the Word.” (FF06.25.1929.853)
“The debate was said to have been well attended, and the return event, this time with Charlie in the exchange with Higdon, was set for the Fall. After the accident, fulfilling his commitment to take part in this discussion was an appointment he was determined to keep. With the assistance of his older brother, the debate took place over one full week in October. At the end of the event, Gus baptized one person who attended. (Gus Nichols, GA10.24.1929.1024)" (The Sage of Jasper, Scott Harp, Cobb Publishing, 2019.108-100)
Until the end of the year, Charlie made efforts to preach where he could, and assisted his brother in gospel meetings by leading the singing. And at other times Charlie preached and Gus led the singing.
Within a few years, Charlie’s health improved enough to return to regular activities. The family ended up moving back to Mississippi, but continued travel back to preach in Alabama when needed. Around the spring of 1944 he began conducting a daily radio program in Columbus on WCBI. (FF06.20.1944)
During the 1950s churches of Christ were plagued with division over what might be summarized as cooperation issues. Ways churches were able to work together in support of missions, orphans and widows, Christian colleges, and any para-church organization were contested in print and from pulpits. No place was division felt more than in Alabama and Mississippi. It divided churches and families as well. The Nichols family was affected as Charlie and Carey found themselves pitted against brothers Gus and Pervie. All four men went to their graves grieved over the divisions that affected their families.
Charlie preached the remainder of his life in eastern Mississippi, mainly for the Lone Oak church of Christ, in Steens, Lowndes County, Mississippi. Again, until able to retire he worked outside ministry to support himself.
In mid-1975 he became ill, and within a short time life slipped away. He passed on September 9th. Sadly, his older brother Gus was also gravely ill at the time and was unable to attend the funeral. But many of the Nichols family came together to celebrate a great life dedicated to the cause of Christ. The funeral and burial were there in Lone Oak church of Christ. Lillie lived several more years but passed January 10, 1992. She was laid to rest beside her husband. Also buried in the cemetery there is daughter Opal Nichols Goodman, who died in 1997, and James Allen Nichols who died the following year.
-Scott Harp, 04.09.2022
Charlie & Lillie Nichols
Source: picture posted on Friends Of The Restoration
Facebook by Ted Burleson, 04.06.2022
Directions To The Grave Of Charlie Nichols
C.R. Nichols is buried in the Lone Oak
Church of Christ Cemetery near Columbus, Mississippi. From
Columbus head out Military Rd. (Old Hwy. 12) until it merges into
Hwy. 12. Continue out Hwy 12 another 5 miles and turn right on
Sanders Mill Rd. Go about a mile and bear left on Lone Oak Rd. Go
about a mile and the Lone Oak church of Christ will be on your
right, and the cemetery will be beside the building.
Lone Oak church of Christ is one of the oldest churches of Christ in Lowndes County. It was planted by Charlie Wheeler, and his parents are buried in the cemetery near the Nichols' plot. Photos below reveal the Nichols and Wheeler plots. Charlie Wheeler is buried south of Jasper, Alabama.
or D.d. 33.629033, -88.280167
Accuracy to 22'
Grave Faces West
Opal Nichols Goodman
Oct. 21, 1918
Apr. 2, 1997
We Love You
Daughter Of Charlie & Lillie Nichols
Lillie H. April 14, 1900 - Jan. 10, 1992
Charlie R. - Nov. 3, 1892 - Sept. 9, 1975
Nov. 3, 1892
Sept. 9, 1975
Also Buried At Lone Oak Are The Parents Of Charlie Wheeler
Jesse Jones Wheeler
CO D 26 Ala Inf
Confederate States Army
Jan 10, 1822 - Oct 10 1895
Jan 10, 1822
Oct 10, 1895
Nov. 29, 1827
Jan. 15, 1891
Mother of Charlie Wheeler