NEWBERRY — Can you imagine driving 65 miles a day, making 650 stops, all in an eight-hour period? Johnny Nichols has done this consistently during his 30-year career with the U.S. Postal Service.
Nichols graduated from Newberry High School then attended Piedmont Technical College where he earned an associate degree in business. Nichols then went to Central Wesleyan, now called Southern Wesleyan University, where he obtained a bachelor of science degree. His wife, Tammy, works for the S.C. Retirement Systems. Nichols has two step-children, Chad and Eric.
Before working at the postal service, the 54-year-old Nichols worked with law enforcement. Sheriff Lee Foster was his adviser at the time and Nichols said it was an eye-opening experience.
“It turned me into a man,” he said.
Nichols continued to work with law enforcement for four years before he became interested in the U.S. Postal Service. His friend’s father was a postmaster, and encouraged Nichols to take the test.
The first time Nichols said he didn’t take the test seriously.
“It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would have been,” he said.
Taking the test more seriously the second time around, he scored better and received his first job with the Postal Service in 1984, working as a clerk at the Kershaw post office.
While working in Kershaw, Nichols also was training and delivering mail. Nichols said he was put on a bicycle route and delivered mail on a bicycle for six months. A year later, he had gotten a part time job as a clerk at the Newberry post office.
Nichols said on his first day of work at the Newberry Post Office, he had 15 minutes or so before needing to clock in, so he explored his surroundings.
“I never knew there was so much equipment in the back,” Nichols said.
Nichols said he knew some day he would be the postmaster at the Newberry post office, making it his personal goal.
By 1996, Nichols had a full-time job as postmaster at Union’s post office. He remembered one day in particular where it snowed 14 inches. Nichols said it was havoc due to all the trucks getting stuck in the snow.
While working in Union, Nichols recalled one woman who had not received her mail in a week, so he said made it his business to get her mail to her no matter what. Nichols used his personal car to deliver it to her and did that for about three weeks.
That was one of his more memorable moments as a postmaster.
After four years of working in Union, Nichols took a postmaster position in Clinton.
“It was always something I was inspired to pursue, and it was also getting me closer to home,” Nichols said.
Nichols remained in Clinton for four years, requesting a lateral transfer to the Newberry post office when the postmaster position opened there. He remained in Newberry for 10 years before retiring Jan. 31.
Friend and co-worker Harry Spratlin describes him as a reliable and dedicated worker with whom everyone got along, describing him with the word integrity.
Spratlin and Nichols have a relationship out of work also, usually talking shop and sports. Spratlin said they also discuss their families, and will continue to be friends although Nichols as now retired.
Nichols’ job as a postmaster at Newberry was busy, making sure everything was accounted for including stamps, employee hours and money orders. Nichols planned the mail routes, the way they would run and who would be running them.
Nichols said advantages of the job were plentiful, including a good retirement system and good starting pay. Working for the Postal Service was something Nichols said he really enjoyed, as it is a community service and greatly needed by the communities they serve.
As for his retirement plans, Nichols said they’re still in the works. He said he might pursue some part-time work or just enjoy his many hobbies which include hunting, fishing, playing golf and home repair.
Kevon Williams is a student at Newberry College, studying in the field of Journalism.