Jim Nicholson (Secretary of Veterans Affairs)

Jim Nicholson
5th United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs
In office
January 26, 2005  October 1, 2007
President George W. Bush
Preceded by Anthony Principi
Succeeded by James Peake
United States Ambassador to the Holy See
In office
September 13, 2001  January 26, 2005
President George W. Bush
Preceded by Lindy Boggs
Succeeded by Francis Rooney
Chair of the Republican National Committee
In office
January 17, 1997  January 18, 2001
Preceded by Haley Barbour
Succeeded by Jim Gilmore
Personal details
Born Robert James Nicholson
(1938-02-04) February 4, 1938
Struble, Iowa, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Suzanne Ferrell
Children 3
Education United States Military Academy (BS)
Columbia University (MPP)
University of Denver (JD)
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Army
Years of service 1961–1991
Rank Colonel
Battles/wars Vietnam War
Awards Bronze Star
Combat Infantryman Badge
Meritorious Service Medal
Vietnam Gallantry Cross
Air Medal (2)

Robert James Nicholson (born February 4, 1938[1]) is an attorney, real estate developer, and a former Republican Party chairman. He was the United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs from January 26, 2005 until October 1, 2007.[2]

Personal life

Nicholson was born on a farm near Struble, Iowa. Nicholson has characterized his childhood as "growing up dirt poor in a tenant house without plumbing and sometimes without food".[3] He is the brother of retired Army General John W. Nicholson.

Nicholson has a Master's degree in Public Policy from Columbia University. He received a law degree from the University of Denver College of Law in 1972.[4]

Nicholson is married to the former Suzanne Marie Ferrell of Highland Falls, New York, who is an accomplished artist. They are the parents of three children.[5]

Military service

He is a 1961 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York and served eight years in active duty. He was a paratrooper and Ranger-qualified Army officer. He fought in the Vietnam War, where he earned the Bronze Star, Combat Infantryman Badge, the Meritorious Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry and two Air Medals. After thirty years of military service he retired in 1991 with the rank of Colonel.

In 2005, he was awarded the Distinguished Graduate Award by the USMA.

Nicholson practiced law in Denver, Colorado, specializing in real estate, municipal finance and zoning law. In 1978 he founded Nicholson Enterprises, Inc., a developer of planned residential communities, and in 1987 he bought Renaissance Homes, a custom-home builder. Nicholson is senior counsel with Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck LLP. [6] His practice includes public policy, health care, state and federal regulatory law, international relations, real estate, oil and gas, and alternative energy.

Nicholson is the chairman of Daniels Fund, a private foundation valued at $1.5B. He was chairman of the Federal Interagency Council on Homelessness, chairman of the Board of Open World Foundation, chairman of Volunteers of America of Colorado, and co-chairman of the Advisory Board of the Catholic Leadership Institute. He served as a director of New Day USA Residential Mortgage, LLC; Federated Mutual Funds; the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans; St. Mary Land and Exploration Company; Blue Cross Blue Shield of Colorado; Community Corrections Corporation; ITN Energy Systems, Inc.; and Lerch, Bates and Associates, Inc. He was a fellow of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Nicholson has been honored with Honorary Doctorate of Public Service from Regis University; the University of Dallas, TX; John Cabot University, Rome; Ave Maria School of Law, Ann Arbor, MI; King's College, Wilkes Barre, PA; University of Denver College of Law; and the University of Rome, Italy. He gave the Commencement Address for the universities listed above, as well as the US Merchant Marine Academy. Additionally, he was recognized for by the Volunteers of America Ballington and Maude Booth Award for Public Service; President's Medal for Public Service, Georgetown University; Builder Hall of Fame by the National Association of Homebuilders; the Beckett Fund "Canterbury Medal"; Annual "Top Irish American Award" by Irish American Magazine; and Military Chaplains Association 2007 Citizenship Award.

Political career

Nicholson has never held elected office, but has long been active in the Republican Party. In January 1986, he was elected committeeman from Colorado for the Republican National Committee (RNC). In 1993, he was elected Vice-Chairman of the RNC, and was the "surprise pick"[7] for GOP national chairman in January 1997. He served in that role through the 2000 presidential election.

Between 2001 and 2005, Nicholson served as United States Ambassador to the Holy See (the Vatican). In 2003, Pope John Paul II knighted him with the Grand Cross for his leadership on human rights issues and standing for religious freedom.Order of Pius IX.


  • Official biography from the Department of Veterans Affairs website
  • VIP Speakers Bureau, Jim Nicholson
  • Appearances on C-SPAN
  • Former Vatican Ambassador Nicholson sees wisdom of Holy Spirit in election of Pope Francis
Party political offices
Preceded by
Haley Barbour
Chair of the Republican National Committee
Succeeded by
Jim Gilmore
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Lindy Boggs
United States Ambassador to the Holy See
Succeeded by
Francis Rooney
Political offices
Preceded by
Anthony Principi
United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Succeeded by
James Peake
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