Carnegie Medal awardee Billy A. Nix, given posthumous recognition by the Commission in 1972 for his heroic actions at Sullivan’s Island, S.C., was inducted into his alma mater’s athletic hall of fame during a ceremony on Oct. 9, 2015. Nix attended Gardner-Webb College, now Gardner-Webb University, Boiling Springs, N.C., which cited his contributions as a student-athlete in football and baseball during the years 1958 to 1960. A “versatile talent” named a Wigwam Wiseman All-American, Nix played both offense and defense in football and was team co-captain in 1959. He was one of five athletes inducted into the university’s athletic hall of fame this year.
Traveling from her home in Southlake, Texas, to attend the ceremony, one of Nix’s three daughters, Sonya L. Torti, described the event as very touching and said she was pleased to meet some of her father’s old friends, including Bob Lohr, who knew Nix in high school; Lohr’s brother, Ed Lohr, played football at Gardner-Webb with Nix. Torti’s younger sister, Sharon L. Cox, as well as a cousin, also attended the event. Nix graduated from Gardner-Webb in 1960 and moved on to attend and graduate from the University of Richmond, Va., before starting a career in the insurance industry.
On the day of his death, July 18, 1970, Nix, a 32-year-old insurance adjuster then living in Greensboro, N.C., had traveled to Sullivan’s Island with a friend to fish in the Atlantic Ocean. While in shallow water, he was alerted to the plight of two schoolgirls, ages 11 and 6, both nonswimmers, who had been carried away from shore into deeper water by a strong current and were calling for help. Dropping his fishing pole, Nix swam to a point about 150 feet from shore and made contact with the older girl. With difficulty, he towed her against the current to a point near shore and handed her off to another man. Nix, who could swim a half-mile under normal conditions, then immediately turned and began to swim toward the younger girl, who was being carried seaward by the current. He was last seen approaching her. Their bodies were later recovered from the ocean, more than a mile from the scene.
Nix left a widow and three young daughters, all of whom received a degree of tuition assistance from the Hero Fund in the early 1980s.—Jeffrey A. Dooley, Investigations Manager
15:13 calls to mind those in the Hero Fund’s 111-year history whose lives were sacrificed in the performance of their heroic acts. The name identifies the chapter and verse of the Gospel of John that appears on every medal: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Of the 9,797 medal awardees to date, 2,008, or 21% of the total, were recognized posthumously. They are not forgotten.