After 22 years as Knox County's top prosecutor, District Attorney General Randy Nichols is retiring. During that time in office, he's credited with locking up more criminals than any other DA in Knox County history. 8-27-14
It's a courtroom career that rivals the movies: a serial killer, assassination attempts, and more convictions than you can count.
After 22 years as the county's top prosecutor, District Attorney General Randy Nichols is retiring. In his time in office, he's locked up the most criminals of any DA in the history of Knox County.
But as he prepares for his last day at the end of this week, he's looking back on what he calls his "war stories."
"Its just been some things that you wouldn't believe. I've always been amazed at what people will do to each other," Nichols said in an interview with 10News, "I can't remember what I had for lunch yesterday but I can remember these cases like it was yesterday."
Knox County's only serial killer, known as the Zoo Man, stands out above the rest.
Nichols called Thomas Huskey's kidnapping, rape, and murder of 4 prostitutes in the early 1990s "a reign of terror."
"I just think its very important for people to know, the justice system is here for all of us," he said, "And you're not treated any differently if you're the victim of a crime regardless of your status in life."
He was successful in putting Huskey in prison for 66 years on rape charges but not for murder. The judge said some of the evidence was improperly collected. Nichols says justice was still served.
"He's still in the penitentiary and we're still free," he said.
Nichols had been in office for only 2 years when he experienced what he calls the scariest time of his life. He lived under the fear of being assassinated after Hinton Hoss Waters mailed a bomb to the city-county building addressed to Nichols.
"With just the grace of God, I didn't take my switchblade and open that package that morning like I normally would have done," Nichols recalled, "The authorities with ATF [Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms] told us if it would have exploded, it would have killed anybody with in a 30-40 foot range."
"It was a dark day, it was a dark day. I just worried, I was afraid to leave them [his family.] Afraid to send my children to school."
Instead of getting out of the business, he chose to stand up to the threats.
"I said I'm not going to be pushed around. If you can get me just have it. There's 100 [people] that can take my place," he said.
Despite his tough exterior and pride in putting the worst criminals away, he also sees the justice system a place for people who need help.
"At some point in time, I started changing my philosophy. And thought, we needed to put more energy into intervention and prevention. We need to keep crime from happening," he said.
He lobbied in the legislature, worked to heal drug offenders, and established a safe place for domestic violence victims. The Randall Nichols Family Justice Center is now open as a safe place for domestic violence victims to go. For him, it's that work that he's most proud of.
"I've actually had people come to me after the service of their sentence and say 'I have no hard feelings for you Randy. You treated me fair,'" he said, tearing up.
In his last week, he's seen an outpouring of kind words and goodbyes. It's clear to see the legacy he leaves with the people he's worked with for decades.
"Randy Nichols, I think, is an outstanding attorney general. But he's an even better man," said Bill Crabtree, Assistant District Attorney, who's worked with Nichols since the 1970s.
"He inspires everybody," said Nichols' executive assistant of 15 years, Ashley Julian, "And you try to be the best person you can be just being around him."
"Really the secret of Randy's success is that you can't help but like him," said John Gill, Special Counsel to the Attorney General, who has also worked with Nichols' since the 1970s. "He's really a teddy bear inside if you want to know the truth."
Randy Nichols said he may even put his war stories in book one of these days. In the meantime, he plans on staying involved in the community.
"It's been a fun ride. I'm grateful to the people of Knox County who've fed my family as it were for 22 years plus my time on the bench, really 26 years now. And I appreciate it. I'm grateful," Nichols said.