Julian J. Nexsen, who helped guide Nexsen Pruet from a four-attorney office to one of the region’s leading business law firms, died Wednesday in Columbia after a long illness. He was 91.
“Mr. Nexsen was a model of dignity,” said John Sowards, the firm’s board chairman, said in a news release. “His passion for professionalism and his commitment to principle shaped the lives of attorneys both inside and outside this firm. He was a gentleman of great achievement, and his contributions to the firm, the community, and the practice of law will be fondly remembered and sorely missed. We are proud to carry his name.”
He continued to go to the office each day until 2010, according to the firm.
Nexsen was born outside of Kingstree, the youngest of six children. The son of a successful businessman, he attended public schools before enrolling in The Citadel.
He once said he went to South Carolina’s military academy “because we were getting threats to be in World War II, and I thought I needed to learn to be a soldier.”
Called up during his sophomore year in college, Nexsen took basic training at Camp Croft in Spartanburg, where he was promoted from private to corporal and then to sergeant. After a 10-day stint in Officer Candidate School, he was sent to France as a second lieutenant and infantry platoon leader. While there, he earned the Combat Infantry Badge and the Bronze Star.
In 1945, Paul Cooper and Frank Gary founded the firm that would later become Nexsen Pruet. Nexsen was one of its first four attorneys after being the first honor graduate of his class at the University of South Carolina School of Law.
Shortly after entering the practice, he was again called into military service in 1951, not as an infantryman but as a lawyer in the Judge Advocate General Corps in Korea.
Returning to South Carolina, Nexsen refocused on a career that would span six decades. He became managing partner of Cooper and Gary, which in the 1960s was renamed Cooper Gary Nexsen and Pruet and, later, Nexsen Pruet Jacobs and Pollard.
Later, he would earn the USC law school’s prestigious Compleat Lawyer Platinum Award, which recognizes outstanding professional and civic achievement, and the DuRant Distinguished Public Service Award from the South Carolina Bar Foundation. Additionally, he was listed in “Best Lawyers in America” for trust and estate law.
He was a past president of the Richland County Bar Association and the state Bar Foundation, and served as a member of the Board of Governors of the S.C. Bar, the Legislative Committee for the Revision of the Corporation Code, and the Bar’s House of Delegates.
He also was a Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and the American Bar Foundation; a member of the American Law Institute, the South Carolina Law Institute, and the USC Law School Partnership Board; and a permanent member of the Judicial Conference of the Fourth Judicial Circuit.
In 2006, the South Carolina Bar Foundation passed a resolution recognizing Nexsen for a lifetime pledge of support on behalf of its efforts to promote justice and enhance the legal profession.
Nexsen was a former chairman of the Board of Trustees of Providence Hospital, a former trustee of the Providence Foundation, and a former trustee of the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine Health System. He also served on the Board of Trustees of the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine Ministries Development Corporation. Additionally, he was Clerk of Session and an elder of Eastminster Presbyterian Church; a trustee of Congaree Presbytery; and a member of the Trinity Presbytery Council.
Services are pending.