Jim Nicholson (Secretary of Veterans Affairs)

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The Honorable
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
August 10, 2001 – January 2005
President George W. Bush
Pope John Paul II
Benedict XVI
Preceded by Lindy Boggs
Succeeded by Francis Rooney
58th Chairman of the Republican National Committee
In office
Preceded by Haley Barbour
Succeeded by Jim Gilmore
Personal details
Born Robert James Nicholson
(1938-02-04) February 4, 1938 (age 84)
Struble, Iowa
Political party Republican
Alma mater United States Military Academy, Columbia University
Profession attorney
Religion Roman Catholic
Awards Bronze Star
Combat Infantryman Badge
Meritorious Service Medal
Vietnam Gallantry Cross
Air Medal (2)
Military service
Service/branch  United States Army
Years of service 1961–1991
Rank US-O6 insignia.svg Colonel
Battles/wars Vietnam War

Robert James "Jim" 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, 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 prestigious Distinguished Graduate Award by the USMA.

Legal and business career

Before becoming active in civilian government service, he 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-house builder. Currently, he is senior counsel with Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck LLP, working from both the Washington, D.C. and Denver offices.

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"[6] for GOP national chairman in January 1997. He served in that role through the 2000 presidential election.

Between 2001 and his appointment as Secretary of Veterans Affairs in 2005, he served as United States Ambassador to the Holy See (the Vatican). In 2003 he was awarded Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Pius IX.


  1. U.S. Envoy Thanks Pope for Prayers and Closeness, a post-9/11 press release from the Zenit News Agency
  2. Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs. "Nicholson to Leave VA and Return to the Private Sector — Public and Intergovernmental Affairs". .va.gov. Retrieved November 13, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Official transcript of Nicholson's nomination, whitehouse.gov; Accessed March 13, 2007.
  4. College of Law History Alumni Image Collection from the University of Denver
  5. "Jim Nicholson, Former Secretary of Veterans Affairs". Georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov. Retrieved November 13, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Coloradan Nicholson to lead Veterans Affairs, a December 2004 Denver Post article

External links

  • Official biography from the Department of Veterans Affairs website
  • [1] VIP Speakers Bureau, Jim Nicholson
Party political offices
Preceded by
Haley Barbour
Chairman of the Republican National Committee
Succeeded by
Jim Gilmore
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Corinne Claiborne Boggs
U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See
Succeeded by
Francis Rooney
Government offices
Preceded by
Anthony Principi
U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Served under: George W. Bush

Succeeded by
James Peake