Biloxi High graduate goes back to school to reunite and inspire

By Trang Pham-Bui - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - His hair is gone, but he still has a great sense of humor.

"Oh Lord, that is an ugly picture," said Samuel Nichols, Jr., as he looked at his old yearbook picture.

The 53-year old Nichols was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General earlier this year.  He returned to Biloxi High School on Tuesday to motivate the students.

"You can do anything you want to," Gen. Nichols told a young man who just graduated last year.

He also reminisced with former teachers who remember well his antics in the classroom.

"He'd start something in the back of the room and then say 'He did it. He did it'," said Government teacher Effie Clark. "He's a good example for this school and this community that you can succeed."

General Nichols grew up poor and graduated from Biloxi High in 1972. He played on the school football team for three years.

"Don't make me cry," Gen. Nichols said as soon as he saw his former head football coach walk into the room.

Reuniting with his former teachers and coaches gave him a chance to tell them 'Thank you'."

"There are a lot of great people that made this old Biloxi boy," Nichols told his former coach Joe Sabbatini.

"We all have influence on each other," said Sabbatini.

"It's truly an honor. It's a very humbling experience just being around them and knowing they gave of themselves to me," said Nichols.

And that was the motivational message General Nichols gave to Biloxi students during a school assembly.  He urged the students to always remember the people who are giving them the foundation to pursue their dreams.

"My teachers are my role models, along with my parents," said Nichols. "The reason that I wear this uniform is to give you an opportunity to go to school. Everybody in these stands wants to be somebody in life. You've got to change to become better: Better students, better people."

When he was promoted to Brigadier General back in March, Samuel Nichols invited three Biloxi High School teachers to his ceremony in Washington. He and his wife now live in Virginia. They have two children and two grandchildren.