After graduating from North Central H.S., Larry attended Washington State University and Gonzaga University School of Law, graduating in 1979. Hired as an attorney by the U.S. Department of Treasury, Larry quickly distinguished himself as a young staff attorney for the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. He handled an array of general law enforcement and regulatory enforcement issues.
In 1992, the Chief Counsel demonstrated his utmost confidence in Larry’s legal ability, leadership skills, and professionalism by promoting him to Assistant Chief Counsel. From 1992 to 2011, Larry led attorneys in 11 Western states, providing legal advice and services to two of ATF’s largest and most high-profile field divisions. He also guided the careers of numerous attorneys and supported their advancement to positions throughout ATF Counsel.
Shortly after Larry died in 2011, ATF Chief Counsel Stephen Rubenstein proposed the establishment of the "Larry L. Nickell Award for Legal Advocacy and Professionalism." The honor, which has been awarded annually since 2012, recognizes AFT Counsel employees who exemplify Larry’s contributions to law and the United States—the highest standard of ethical and responsible legal advocacy.
Larry worked under six U.S. presidents in a lengthy and noteworthy career at the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Throughout his adult life, he was a proud N.C. graduate, who could sing the school’s fight song at a moment’s notice. Larry is an inspiration to all North Central students. His life of integrity and passion will remain a wonderful example for N.C. students through the years.