Mary Davis Nichols

November 4, 1916March 30, 2018

After 101 years of a life well lived, Mary Davis Nichols passed away at home on Friday, March 30, 2018. Five things were paramount in her life: Family, Faith, Friends, Learning and Giving. She felt truly blessed throughout her life, which was guided by her strong faith. “God and I are good friends,” she would say. “I pray to Him for guidance several times a day. I always remember to thank Him, even though I may not like His solutions.”

She loved and taught her family who closely surrounded her. It is a large family and each member had a special relationship with the woman they called “Bo”. At family gatherings, no more than five minutes would pass before someone started a “Bo” story. One example: At a doctor’s visit when she was 96, she was told the situation could be corrected only with surgery and for older people that would be impossible. Her immediate reply was “Well, let’s get that scheduled before I get old.”

Mary was born in McAlester, Oklahoma on November 4, 1916 to Mary Bailey and Dr. James Edward Davis. She spent her childhood in McAlester, graduating from high school there in 1933. Mary attended Randolph-Macon Woman’s College through her freshman year and transferred to the University of Oklahoma. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1937. While at OU, she pledged Kappa Kappa Gamma Sorority, was Vice-President of the Junior Class and was elected to Mortar Board. In August, 1937, she married John Whiteman Nichols of Ardmore, Oklahoma whom she met when he mistakenly cut in on her during a fraternity dance. She and John enjoyed seventy wonderful years together. They had three children whom they mentored and adored.

Mary worked alongside of John in building his various businesses, including Devon Energy. They raised their children to have an interest in their education, the arts, and civic activities. Using travel as an educational opportunity, they instilled a love of travel in each child that has been passed along to the grandchildren.

Mary developed a wide variety of interests and friends throughout her long life. She had the capacity to engender deep and lasting relationships with people and the organizations she and John supported. Mary and John will continue to be known for their support of scholarships and other educational programs, music and dance, libraries, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, The University of Oklahoma, and the First Presbyterian Church, of which they were long-time and devout members. Mary was very involved with church life for over 70 years. She continued her community involvements after John’s death in 2008. She was always ready to attend board and committee meetings if she could just find a friend to drive her. If you knew Mary, you knew of her strong interest in college football and basketball. She knew the game and was able to provide plenty of ideas to the coaching staff.

Mary and John provided scholarships annually for many years, including scholarships at the University of Oklahoma Price College of Business, a scholarship for a starter on the OU women’s basketball team, two theological school scholarships, a four-year scholarship through the Oklahoma Hall of Fame for a high school senior interested in Oklahoma history and scholarships at Randolph-Macon Women’s College. Not only did they provide these scholarships, they also were interested in the students who received them.

Mary and John established the Rare Books Collection at OU’s Bizzell Library and were founding members of both the President’s Associates and the Bizzell Library Society. They each received an Honorary Doctorate from the University. Mary was a charter member of the boards of visitors of OU’s Weitzenhoffer Family College of Fine Arts and the literary quarterly World Literature Today. She funded the first endowed faculty position at the OU School of Dance.

She was an “involved” board member for the Oklahoma City Philharmonic, Canterbury Voices, and Allied Arts. Mary and John provided the Philharmonic’s Steinway Concert Grand Piano along with funding for the Philharmonic to play in concert with the Oklahoma City Ballet and Canterbury Voices. Together they received the Governor’s Arts Award from the Oklahoma Arts Council.

The Junior League of Oklahoma City named her the recipient of the Spirit of Commitment Award. She was named Outstanding Phi Beta Kappa of the Oklahoma City chapter, honorary chair of the Juliette Low Leadership Society Luncheon for the Girls Scouts-Western Oklahoma, and honorary chair of the Allied Arts Fund Drive. She loved her long-time participation in Art Renaissance Club and Philomathea.

She is preceded in death by her parents, her husband, John, her two sisters and brothers-in-law, Charles and Mildred Richard and Wayne and Addie Lee Milner, and her nephew Dr. J. Randall Davis. She is survived by her three children: Larry and his wife Polly of Oklahoma City; Betty and her husband David Street of Tampa, FL; and Kent and his wife Diane of Jackson, WY. She was blessed with eight grandchildren and fourteen great-grandchildren. They are Betsy and Drew Graham and their children, Jack, Ben, and Charlotte of Tampa, FL; Randy and Holly Street and their children, Laura, Julie, and Sarah of Atlanta, GA; Jeff and Rachel Street and their children Ethan and Toby of San Rafael, CA; Tyler and Caroline Nichols and their children Wesley and Henry of Richmond, VA; Sally and Jeff Starling and their children Addison and Megan of Oklahoma City; Holly and Commander David Collins and their children Michael and Alexander of San Diego, CA; Lera and Matthew O’Sullivan of Bozeman, MT; and Kelly Nichols of Jackson, WY. She is also survived by her brother Dr. James E.

Davis and his wife Martha Lee Davis of Los Angeles, CA and their children Carolyn and Marilee of Los Angeles, CA. Also survived by her niece Mary Lynn Smith of Bartlesville and her children Dr. David Smith and his wife Dr. Erin Glasgow Smith of Oklahoma City and Alan Smith of Austin, TX. She is also survived by her niece Nancy Greer and her husband John of Oklahoma City and nephew Dr. James M. Richard and his wife Mary, of Oklahoma City, their children Kate Richard Kanady of Oklahoma City, Andrew of New York City, NY and Claire Packer of Oklahoma City. Her family is grateful for her many friends and special caregivers, Laneita Cartwright, Donna Harmon, Faye Byrd, Corrine Newcombe, and Cathy McCombs.

Funeral services will be held at the First Presbyterian Church in Oklahoma City on Thursday, April 5 at 10:00 AM. The family will receive visitors at the church after the services. Interment will follow at Memorial Park Cemetery. Services will be under the direction of Hahn-Cook Street & Draper. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorials be made to the Mary D. Nichols Memorial at the First Presbyterian Church of Oklahoma City, 1001 NW 25, Oklahoma City, OK 73106, or to a charity of your choice. Mary felt her life was truly blessed by each of you who were her friends and cared for her. For that the family is eternally grateful.


  • John W. Nichols, Husband
  • Dr. James Edward Davis, Father
  • Mary Bailey Davis, Mother
  • Mildred Richard, Sister
  • Charles Richard, Brother-in-law
  • Addie Lee Milner, Sister
  • Wayne Milner, Brother-in-law
  • Dr. J. Randall Davis, Nephew
  • Larry and Wife Polly Nichols, Son
  • Betty and Husband David Street, Daughter
  • Kent and Wife Diane Nichols, Son
  • Betsey and Drew Graham, Grandchild
  • Randy and Holly Street, Grandchild
  • Jeff and Rachel Street, Grandchild
  • Tyler and Caroline Nichols, Grandchild
  • Sally and Jeff Starling, Grandchild
  • Holly and Commander David Collins, Grandchild
  • Lera and Matthew O'Sullivan, Grandchild
  • Kelly Nichols, Grandchild
  • Jack Graham, Great Grandchild
  • Ben Graham, Great Grandchild
  • Charlotte Graham, Great Grandchild
  • Laura Street, Great Grandchild
  • Julie Street, Great Grandchild
  • Sarah Street, Great Grandchild
  • Ethan Street, Great Grandchild
  • Toby Street, Great Grandchild
  • Wesley Nichols, Great Grandchild
  • Henry Nichols, Great Grandchild
  • Addison Starling, Great Grandchild
  • Megan Starling, Great Grandchild
  • Michael Collins, Great Grandchild
  • Alexander Collins, Great Grandchild
  • Dr. James E. and Wife Martha Davis, Brother
  • Other survivors include Carolyn and Marilee Davis, Mary Lynn Smith, Dr. David Smith and wife Dr. Erin Glasgow Smith, Alan Smith, Nancy Greer and husband John, Dr. James M. Richard and wife Mary, Kate Richard Kanady, Andrew and Claire Packer

  • Mary D. Nichols Memorial


  • Funeral Service Thursday, April 5, 2018

Mary Davis Nichols

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