Robert Nelson Cornelius Nix Jr. served as the Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court from 1984 to 1996. Nix was the first African-American Chief Justice of any state’s highest court, and the first African American to be elected to statewide office in Pennsylvania. He served as justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania for 24 years, 12 of which were as chief justice. He was a prominent figure in Pennsylvania law and public service for more than three decades.
Nix Jr. was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on July 13, 1928. He was the son of Robert N. C. Nix Sr., the first of Pennsylvania’s African American Representative in the United States Congress and a powerhouse among city Democrats. Nix’s grandfather was Nelson Cornelius Nix, who was born into slavery but eventually became a minister and an academic dean of South Carolina State College at Orangeburg.
He was a graduate of Central High School (1946), a 1950 graduate and valedictorian of Villanova University, and a second-generation graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School. He was also a postgraduate of Temple University for Business Administration and Economics. Robert Nix Jr. died of Alzheimer’s disease on August 23, 2003, in his hometown of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.