Coroner and Acting Sheriff James Rufus "Red" Nichols (August 19, 1914 - April 20, 2006); photo courtesy of the Haleyville Advertiser and Sally Gilliland.
From The Haleyville Advertiser?, April 9, 1942
J.R. Dozier, Undertaker Since 1912, Sells Business To Young Employee Of Past 2 1/2 Years
J. R. (Red) Nichols, popular employee of Dozier Funeral Home for the past 2 1/2 years, this week bought the establishment and assumed management Monday, it was announced by Mr. Dozier and Mr. Nichols.
Nichols came here from Anniston and has become one of the town's most .prominent citizens. He has an excellent reputation as an embalmer and funeral director. The name Of the establishment has been changed to Nichols Funeral Home.
Mr. Dozier has operated the only funeral home in Winston County since 1912. In addition to his business, he was mayor of Haleyville two terms, councilman two terms, and clerk two terms. Mr. Dozier announced that he was selling because of his health and age. On another page, in an advertisement, Mr. Dozier expresses appreciation for the patronage given him for 30 years. He highly commends Mr. Nichols as a competent and reliable embalmer and funeral director.
Nichols has worked for undertaking establishments since he was 15 years old. In 1935, he finished the Gupton-Jones College of Embalming at Nashville, Tenn., and later in the year passed the State examination for embalmers and funeral directors.
Nichols worked for Brown-Service funeral homes in Anniston, Birminingham and Jasper. Dozier's Funeral Home is the only Winston County funeral home authorized to service Brown-Service policies.
He married Miss Mary Alice Beavers, of Jasper, four and a half years ago. They have two children.
From The Northwest Alabamian, January 13, 1999
County's First Coroner retires; Gilliland named as replacement
By Dawn McInnish
The end of an era was marked this week in the courthouse in Double Springs when it was announced that J.R. "Red" Nichols would retire from the office of coroner of Winston County after serving in that post for over half a century.
Nichols was the longest-serving coroner in the state of Alabama, serving an unprecedented 54 years in office, and is the only coroner Winston County has ever known, being elected at the time the office was established. He is also well known for his chain of Nichols Funeral Homes throughout the county, with locations in Haleyville. Double Springs and Addison.
Nichols first purchased the Dozier Funeral Home in 1938. and his business grew from there. He and wife Ethel recently sold the business to Peavy & Brooks. Inc., of Birmingham.
Truly an icon in Winston County, Nichols estimates he has helped bury more than 12,000 people in his 70 years in the funeral business. He performed his duties as coroner over countless deaths, both accidental and intentional, for five decades. In addition to his elected office, Nichols also served as sheriff on two occasions, when the sheriff at the time died in office, until a new sheriff could be appointed.
Ethel Nichols said she and Red will probably do some traveling, and that her husband will miss his service to the people of Winston County.
The man sworn in to serve out the remaining two years of Nichols' current term is another familiar face, Larry Gilliland, who worked for Nichols for 30 years and served as a deputy coroner for 20 years.
Gilliland was appointed by Gov. Fob James, and was sworn in Monday.
"I am very proud to have received the appointment, and hope to serve the people of Winston County as well as I can," Gilliland said.
Gilliland is a major in the Alabama National Guard, serves as assistant Emergency Management Agency director in Winston County, and works as a judicial magistrate for Judge Ann Richardson.