Esther DeWitt Nixon (1916–2004)
Esther DeWitt Nixon was the founding librarian of the Jacksonville (Pulaski County) public library and served there for nearly three decades. The Jacksonville branch library of the Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) was named in her honor in 1992.
Esther DeWitt, with her twin sister Ruth, was born on November 24, 1916, in Corsicana, Texas, to Marcus Henry DeWitt and Allie Ellis DeWitt. The twins had three brothers and two sisters. Esther married Watson Nixon Jr., on February 22, 1943—a marriage that lasted more than fifty years until his death on April 20, 1993—and they had two sons. The family lived in Jacksonville.
Esther Nixon and her children were avid users of the Pulaski County Library’s bookmobile, and, as her son remembered, “she got to know the head of the Pulaski County Library at the time [Mary Sue Shepherd] and that’s how she got into the idea of becoming a librarian when they decided to build one here.” When a branch library opened in Jacksonville City Hall on November 22, 1959, as a cooperative venture between the city and the Pulaski County Library, Nixon was hired to run it. (After a merger of systems, the Pulaski County Library became part of CALS in 1975.)
She served as head librarian at the Jacksonville Library for twenty-seven years. During her tenure, voters approved a bond issue that raised $82,000 for a 10,000-square-foot independent library building in 1967. Nixon retired in 1986, and the Jacksonville Library was renamed in her honor in 1992. A new 13,500-square-foot library was constructed by CALS in 2009, and it retained the name Esther DeWitt Nixon Library.
After retiring, Esther Nixon remained active with the library, leading regular Book Chats. She also was active in First Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville, establishing a children’s library there. She died on April 15, 2004, and her obituary stated that “she had an immense number of friends who join her family in mourning the great loss of a kind, sweet, loving lady.” She is buried in Bayou Meto Cemetery in Jacksonville.
For additional information:
“Esther Nixon, City’s Founding Librarian, Dies.” Jacksonville Patriot, April 21, 2004, pp. 1, 3.
“Esther Nixon Remembered as Unique.” The Leader, April 17, 2004, p. 1.
Obituary of Esther DeWitt Nixon. Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 17, 2004, p. 8B.
Schuette, Shirley, and Nathania Sawyer. From Carnegie to Cyberspace: 100 Years at the Central Arkansas Library System. Little Rock: Butler Center Books, 2010.
Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System
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