Lord D. Nickens was remembered by family, friends and others on Saturday at the International Community Church of God in Frederick as a man who overcame injustice to make a difference in many people’s lives.
Nickens died Jan. 4 at the age of 99 due to complications brought on by pneumonia, his family said.
Speakers and attendees of the funeral service included Frederick County and local political officials, area clergy members, members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and police officers.
Seaven Gordon, who worked with Nickens in the Frederick NAACP chapter for more than 20 years, said that Nickens’ fights included those for equal pay for women and the U.S. Supreme Court case of Brown v. Board of Education.
Nickens “believed in civil rights for all,” Gordon said.
Gordon described how Nickens also played a role in expanding public accommodation and housing opportunities for African Americans in the area, among other changes to the city of Frederick and Maryland.
“Time will not allow me to talk about all the accomplishments Mr. Nickens made during his time of service,” Gordon said.
State Sen. Ronald N. Young (D-Dist. 3), a longtime friend of Nickens, described how Nickens helped him learn to do the right thing, even when it was unpopular, as well as overcome his shyness when he was younger.
“He began to teach me not to fear,” said Young, who likened Nickens to Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., two people Young said he often heard Nickens quote.
The Rev. Ronald Simmons, who officiated the service and delivered the eulogy, compared Nickens with the Biblical figure Joseph, who Simmons said experienced hate and misunderstanding.
“They lifted their enemies from evil to good,” he said.
Nickens, Simmons said, loved to get his hands in the dirt that others might avoid.
“He knew that out of the dirt would come beautiful things,” he said.
Kathy Ford, Nickens’ niece, read aloud a series of statements, including those from Gov. Martin O’Malley, U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, and NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous.
Ford continued with her personal account of her uncle, whom she said would fish with his kids, garden, cook, and loved to play card games.
“He was quite a chef,” she said.
After the service, Gregory Nickens, of Flint Hill, said he will remember from his dad “the family values he instilled in me” and recalled gardening with his dad who taught him how to grow vegetables and other plants.
The late Nickens’ nephew Dennis Jackson, of Frederick, said that he was overwhelmed by the motorcade procession through the Frederick area after the service for the man he considered a father figure.
“Today, I’m almost speechless,” Jackson said. “I’ve never seen anything like this done in Frederick.”
Harvey Zeigler, of Damascus, once the president of the NAACP’s Montgomery County chapter, said he knew Nickens since the 1930s when they were young boys who would go into the local department store to “shop with the little bit of money we had.”
Even when they were young, Zeigler said, he would talk with Nickens about the discrimination they faced as African Americans.
Joyce Hall, of Frederick, who knew Nickens personally, said that if anyone was worthy of being called “a civil rights icon” for Frederick, it is Nickens.
“He was Martin Luther King for Frederick before Martin Luther King,” Hall said.