Jim Nicholson, retired

Daily News

obituary writer, has won the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of Professional Obituary Writers.

In his 19 years of obit writing for the Daily News, Nicholson specialized in writing, at length, about ordinary people - janitors, milkmen, laborers, housewives, plumbers - folks who ordinarily would not have received any published notice when they died.

As a result, he has been written about in journalism textbooks and his methods studied in college journalism courses.

In nominating Nicholson for the award, Marilyn Johnson, author of "The Dead Beat," a book about obit writing that features Nicholson's work, said of him:

"Nicholson's campaign to dignify every subject with his laser-beam attention - and the delicacy and generosity with which he wrote about their flawed lives - was an innovation and a tremendous success. It immediately gave the Daily News an authentic voice in the local community and a standing in the national one."

Responding to the award, Nicholson recalled how, when he started the Daily News' first obit page, there was support from the editors but many detractors in the newsroom, "who viewed a 25-inch obit on a maintenance worker as a ludicrous waste of time."

But Nicholson, who, as a former investigative reporter, broke stories about gambling rings, motorcycle gangs and the Black Mafia, became a legend in a field that used to be considered a journalism backwater. *