Nixon, Robert J.
(1930 – 2021)
Robert James Nixon was born in Ontario, Oregon on August 27, 1930, and grew up in Bonners Ferry, Idaho. He received his formal architectural training from the University of Idaho where he was awarded a Bachelor of Science degree in architecture in 1953.
Upon graduation, Nixon entered the Air Force as a second Lieutenant, and upon his 1955 discharge he worked for a variety of firms in Texas and California before joining the Spokane architectural firm of Walker & McGough in 1959. There he became project manager for the Bruce Walker-designed International Pavilion at the Century 21 Exposition (1962 Seattle World’s Fair). Nixon was asked to head the Seattle office of the firm in 1963. He formally became a partner in 1966.
While with Walker-McGough he served as project architect for the Franklin County Jail in Pasco (1965); the Boundary Dam Vista House (1967); Electro-Development Corp. Office, Lab and Manufacturing Facility in Seattle (1968); and Kane Hall and Padelford Hall (1968) on the University of Washington Campus. He also assisted in Capitol Campus Planning designs, and a remodeling of the Legislative Building in Olympia.
In 1968 Nixon took a short-lived job with Seattle architectural firm of RAMCo, but was swayed to join former Spokane architect Royal McClure in a new partnership in Seattle the following year.
Together, the McClure-Nixon firm (1969-1976) with offices in the IBM Building in downtown Seattle, focused mainly on public and educational projects. Known work includes the student housing complex at WSU; Buchanan Hall at WWU; the creative arts center for EWU in Ellensburg; Central WA State College Student Union Building in Ellensburg (1968); Mercer Hall (1970) and Plant services building at UW and the Union Street substation for Seattle City Light (1973). Work for the U.S. Navy included the Trident Submarine Base Administration Complex at Bangor, and officers’ housing at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.
In the early 1970s R. Dan Farr joined the firm and the name was changed to McClure, Nixon & Farr. In 1977 McClure, Nixon & Farr joined The Richardson Associates (TRA) in a new partnership. Nixon joined TRA as project director; Farr established a sub-firm TRA/FARR and McClure went into semi-retirement, moving to Orcas Island. Nixon became an official partner in TRA in 1983.
His projects while at TRA include the Medium Security Prison in Monroe (1981) and the Clallam Bay Prison. Their design for the medium-security corrections center for the Monroe Reformatory was chosen for 1981 juried exposition of Architecture for Justice Facilities. Work in planning and design for an international airport in Doha, Qatar and later for the Royal Iranian Air Force kept Nixon busy traveling to the Middle East.
In the late 1980s Nixon left TRA and formed Robert Nixon Associates, Inc (RNAI) in Bellevue, with later offices on Mercer Island and Port Angeles. In collaboration with his former partner, John McGough, projects during this time include the renovation and expansion of McNeil Island Prison and the Purdy Women’s Correctional Center. Other Olympic Peninsula projects during the 1990s and 2000s include the Port Angeles Fire Station, the Port Angeles Branch Library of North Olympic Library System, and the renovation/new construction of Jefferson Elementary School.
Nixon was also active in the Seattle AIA chapter and served as 2nd Vice President (1968), 1st Vice President (1969), and then President (1970). He became a Fellow in the AIA in 1975, at the time one of the youngest to be so honored.
Nixon retired in 2003 and passed away in Seattle on November 13, 2021 at the age of 91.
– Michael C Houser