Ken Nichols – A Spiritual Connection
Kenwood C. “Ken” Nichols says he had a typical Alabama farm boy upbringing, working on the family farm and in the family’s country store. A sixth generation Alabamian, his roots are in Dallas County, where his parents Lila Mae and Edwin Nichols began farming acreage along Ocmulgee Creek near Selma in 1938. Ken’s childhood there spawned his interest in agriculture and forestry, leading to his long and successful international career in the forest products industry.
This homeland also became the reason he and his wife, Joanna, returned to Alabama from Connecticut. When International Paper Company took over Champion International Corporation in 2000, he retired from his position as Vice-Chairman and Executive Officer, where he had been responsible for all of Champion’s timberlands and manufacturing operations in Brazil and Canada and for the timberlands and wood products businesses in the United States.
The Dallas County farm holds for him what he describes as almost a spiritual connection, prompting his decision to purchase it from his parents in 1977. To ensure that it would never be developed for non-agricultural use, he placed 447 of its acres in a conservation easement (CE) in 2012. One hundred of the easement acres are in pine trees that Ken himself planted when he was 14. In 1957, he used the results of his forestry project to win first place in a state-wide contest sponsored by the Future Farmers of America. The award led to a scholarship to Auburn University where he obtained a degree in Forest Management, followed by a full scholarship to Duke University, where he was awarded a master’s degree in Business Management.
Early in his career he was transferred to British Columbia. “British Columbia was like being in Heaven for a forester,” says Ken. It was there that he met and married his wife Joanna, who’d grown up in Northumberland, England. She and Ken have two daughters and five grandchildren. An accomplished water color artist, Joanna is the current President of the Selma Art Guild.
For the past 11 years Ken has demonstrated his dedication to land conservation by serving on the Georgia-Alabama Land Trust (GALT) Board as Vice-President and Chairman of the Finance Committee. He also continues to support the advancement of the forestry profession through the Auburn School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, where he established the Kenwood C. Nichols Endowed Scholarship. His contribution to the school was recognized by the creation of the Kenwood C. Nichols Family Library. Ken believes that too many farms are ruined by subdivision developments and poor land use planning. “The conservation easement alleviates my concerns about what might happen to my property in the future,” he says. “I believe in land and water conservation and I want to leave a good environment for my grandchildren. I have always been attracted to the land and I want future generations to have the same opportunity I had to experience the fields and woodlands of Alabama.”