Julian J. Nexsen, who helped guide Nexsen Pruet from a four-attorney office to one of the region’s leading business law firms, died on May 6, 2015 in Columbia, S.C., after a long illness. He was 91.
“Mr. Nexsen was a model of dignity”
A widely respected and admired attorney, Mr. Nexsen was known as much for his integrity as he was for his legal skills. While conceding that the profession had changed over time, he remained unwavering in his belief that lawyers should always be guided by character and personal values. “We want to be completely honest, straightforward in every way in all that we do,” he once said.
Julian J. Nexsen was born outside of Kingstree, S.C., the youngest of six children. The son of a successful businessman, he attended public schools before enrolling in The Citadel “because we were getting threats to be in World War II, and I thought I needed to learn to be a soldier.”
Called up during his sophomore year in college, he underwent basic training at Camp Croft in Spartanburg, where he was promoted from private to corporal and then to sergeant. After a 10-day stint in Officer Candidate School, he was sent to France as a second lieutenant and infantry platoon leader.
While there, he earned the Combat Infantry Badge and the Bronze Star.
In 1945, Paul Cooper and Frank Gary founded the firm that would later become Nexsen Pruet, and Mr. Nexsen was one of its first four attorneys after being the first honor graduate of his class at the University of South Carolina School of Law. But shortly after entering the practice, he was again called into military service in 1951, not as an infantryman but as a lawyer in the Judge Advocate General Corps in Korea.
Returning to South Carolina, Mr. Nexsen refocused on a career that would span six decades. He became managing partner of Cooper and Gary, which in the 1960s was renamed Cooper Gary Nexsen and Pruet and, later, Nexsen Pruet Jacobs and Pollard.
Over the years that followed, Mr. Nexsen set a standard for skill and service.
He earned the USC law school’s prestigious Compleat Lawyer Platinum Award, which recognizes outstanding professional and civic achievement, and the DuRant Distinguished Public Service Award from the South Carolina Bar Foundation. Additionally, he was listed in Best Lawyers in America for trust and estate law.
Mr. Nexsen’s impact on the legal profession has been significant as well. He was a past president of the Richland County Bar Association and the state Bar Foundation, and served as a member of the Board of Governors of the S.C. Bar, the Legislative Committee for the Revision of the Corporation Code, and the Bar’s House of Delegates.
He was also a Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and the American Bar Foundation; a member of the American Law Institute, the South Carolina Law Institute, and the USC Law School Partnership Board; and a permanent member of the Judicial Conference of the Fourth Judicial Circuit.
Fittingly, the South Carolina Bar Foundation in 2006 passed a resolution recognizing Mr. Nexsen for a lifetime pledge of support on behalf of its efforts to promote justice and enhance the legal profession.
Although Mr. Nexsen spent considerable time and effort building his law firm, he never lost sight of the need to contribute to and serve his community. “From the time I started practicing law, I thought the one thing I ought to do is to be able to help other people,” he said. That philosophy translated to a deep personal involvement in civic and charitable concerns.
Mr. Nexsen was a former chairman of the Board of Trustees of Providence Hospital, a former trustee of the Providence Foundation, and a former trustee of the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine Health System. He also served on the Board of Trustees of the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine Ministries Development Corporation. Additionally, he was Clerk of Session and an elder of Eastminster Presbyterian Church; a trustee of Congaree Presbytery; and a member of the Trinity Presbytery Council.
I met Julian in the fall of 1979, while a first year law student. My wife was a legal secretary at the Firm and I would come after class every day, just before quitting time, to wait for her in the lobby. The first time I did that Mr. Nexsen was walking through the lobby, noticed me, stuck out his hand and introduced himself. When I called my name to him he responded with, "Tom, nice to meet you." I thought I had heard "Tom" but was not certain. The next day we repeated this process and he greeted me with "Hello Tom." I told my wife and she implored me to correct him next time but I was too intimidated. All semester long this went with Julian greeting me every day with "Tom". At the Firm Christmas party Julian came up to our group of secretaries and their husbands and went around the circle meeting and greeting folks. When it came to me, before my wife could introduce me Julian said "And Tom so nice to see you." Well my wife corrected him and he just looked at me as if I was an idiot (which I was) for allowing him to call me 'Tom' for months.
He was a model of dignity. His passion for professionalism and his commitment to principle shaped the lives of attorneys both inside and outside this firm. He was a gentleman of great achievement, and his contributions to the firm, the community, and the practice of law will be fondly remembered and sorely missed. We are proud to carry his name.
-John Sowards, Board Chairman
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I clerked for Nexsen Pruet Jacobs and Pollard the summers of 1986 and 1987.... At the beginning of my second summer, I received an urgent assignment and came in every day at 8 to work on it. Mr. Nexsen stopped in and spoke to me each day. On the third day he told me: "I thoroughly enjoyed speaking with you these mornings Mr. Manos." I relayed this conversation to Wilburn Brewer later in the day and mentioned how nice that was. Wilburn offered to translate for me. Wilburn said: "That means you should have your ___ here every morning this early, in case you didn't get it."
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