Carla & Larry Nicks—Thankful for each other

By on November 1, 2018
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Carla & Larry Nicks
Thankful for each other

 

It was a sunny fall afternoon in 1979 when Larry Nicks and some buddies walked into the Kmart on Highway 80 in Jackson to look for a car part.

What Larry found was something much more precious: Carla Jacobs, his future wife, working the security stand.

“All of a sudden I saw this girl. I’m like, ‘Oh my … she is gorgeous,’” Larry recalled. “And as guys are, (we said to each other), ‘Hey, say something to her… I dare you, I dare you!’ (But) nobody did.”

Instead, they started looking for that car part.

“They took a long time to come back (out),” Carla said. “I was just about getting ready to call security to go look for these guys.”

Finally, the young men exited the store. Their search had been unsuccessful.

Then Larry came right back to the security guard stand.

“I said, ‘Has anyone ever told you — I’m sure you’ve heard a hundred times — you have the most gorgeous eyes?’” he recalled.

“She says, ‘Correction, 101 times.’ And my little ego, she just — she snapped my ego. And I asked for her number and she wouldn’t give it to me.”

Larry and Carla in 1980, in a photo for the Miss Hinds Junior College pageant. “I was just a tagalong,” Larry said.

Larry later realized he had a class at what was then Hinds Junior College with one of Carla’s friends. Larry paid the friend $5 to procure Carla’s number, and then called her up.

“I said something very unflattering, which I shouldn’t have said, that I found her number written, you know, somewhere,” Larry said. “Not a nice move, you know.”

“He was talking to the dial tone,” Carla interjected.

Larry called back to apologize.

The two started hanging out as friends — Carla was dating someone else at the time. She attended Hinds’ Raymond campus, and Larry the Jackson one. They both studied business.

“I would call her, she would call me, we’d laugh, (and at the end of the call say) ‘See ya later, bye,’” Larry said.

“And so one day … I took her home, being a gentleman, and I extended my hand to her to thank her, (say) hey let’s do it some other time, she caught my hand, pulled me to her, she kissed me —it was all over then.” (It was over for the other guy Carla had dated, too.)

Larry and Carla went on a few dates, and she found herself praying — hard — for a sign that he was the man for her.

“You know when you’re weeping and wailing before the Lord, really seeking for an answer, some of the stuff that you ask for is just kind of, ‘What was that?’ And I asked God to send a deer across the road,” she recalled.

“And it was like, ‘OK, whatever that was about.’”

Larry with the family dog, a toy poodle whom the kids named Eve because she was brought home on a Christmas Eve.

The next day, she and some classmates were on their way to Raymond and met bumper-to-bumper traffic on Highway 18 near Siwell Road — caused by not one, but two deer crossing the road.

“And I just started praising God there on Highway 18,” Carla said.

At that time, she and Larry had a class together. She went into class excited — and he completely ignored her. So she asked God for another sign:

“I said, ‘Bring him to me out of a building. You did this once. Do it (for) me again.’ And we still haven’t figured out today (why) Larry was in the science lab (later) — whether he was dodging me or whatever. And out of nowhere, Larry came out of this door with, like, clouds (around him). I mean just angelically,” she said.

“We talked … and I just told him, ‘You’re the one.’”

Larry admits that as a lifelong “nerd” who hadn’t dated much, “I was a virgin, I had never been in love before, and I had a hard time adjusting to it. My dad passed when I was 8 … I didn’t have a father to say, ‘Son, this is what to expect.’ So I ran away from it, and I ran away from her (initially).”

Needless to say, he didn’t run far enough.

 

Miss and Mrs.

Larry and Carla started dating more seriously while at Hinds. Then his birthday drew near.

Meanwhile, Ms. Anna Bee, Carla’s coach on the Hinds High Steppers team, suggested she participate in “the pageant.”

“And I’m like, ‘What pageant?’” Carla recalled.

“And Larry says, ‘Yeah, you know they have a beauty pageant down here. Why don’t you do the beauty pageant for my birthday?’ And I thought, ‘Uh, OK.’”

Carla was pictured as a “Beauty” in the Hinds Junior College yearbook in 1980, the same year she became the first black Miss Hinds. In 2018, she was honored as one of the 100 most influential people in Hinds history.

Carla entered the pageant — and won. She was the first African-American Miss Hinds Junior College.

“Larry had an ankle injury and he was on crutches. … When they announced my name, he jumped onstage on crutches to congratulate me.”

Carla went on to compete in the Miss Mississippi pageant, and though she did not place, she loved the experience. She got to hear a testimony from reigning titleholder Cheryl Prewitt about how she had overcome a deformity in her legs by God’s grace.

“And it just impacted me spiritually because she talked about … the power of prayer.”

Later, after Carla and Larry were married, he found out about the Mrs. Mississippi pageant.

“He said, ‘Well, we won’t say this one is for my birthday, but why don’t you enter the Mrs. Mississippi pageant for me?’ And I thought, ‘OK, enough is enough. There’s no more after this,’” Carla said, laughing.

She entered the pageant and won first runner-up next to winner Pamela Nail, who went on to win Mrs. America. Carla then stepped up to be Mrs. Mississippi.

The title brought a lot of travel with it.

“That crown probably has about 10,000 miles on it, literally. We traveled some of everywhere trying to make a declaration for Christ, (as an) ambassador for Mississippi. The governor at that time granted me an ambassadorship. October 10 was Carla Nicks Day.”

She also was working part-time at UPS. She worked part-time there for 11 1/2 years — until the district human resources manager heard her giving a presentation and offered her a full-time job on the spot.

Now Carla hires for part of UPS’ Southern region and also does training, recruiting and terminating. She is responsible for HR for more than 1,500 employees in Jackson. And she loves it.

“I asked the Lord, ‘Why? Why HR, of all places?’ … But it’s always been a platform for me to preach God’s word and help so many. And so I try to take advantage of it.”

 

Chasing gold

As a young couple, Larry and Carla transferred from Hinds to Mississippi State University. Then Larry realized God was calling him to the ministry. He transferred to Mississippi Baptist Seminary in Jackson, then New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, with a focus on family counseling. He and Carla got married while he was in seminary.

“Then I realized, ‘Wait a minute, I gotta make some money … I don’t have a job, I’m going to school … and I’ve eaten enough potato chips,’” Larry recalled.

With an interest in broadcasting, he walked into the WAPT news station in Jackson and filled out an application. He checked the box next to “sales.”

“(In the parking lot) I saw the kind of cars (reporters) were driving, and I looked at the other side, what the sales people were driving, and I was like, ‘I wanna be on that side.’”

After getting no response to his application, he called the manager — who noted that Larry had no experience.

“I said, ‘Well, you give me a job, I’ll have some experience.’”

Larry’s radio show, “Defining Moments with Larry Nicks,” airs Thursdays from 11 a.m. to noon on 104.5 FM and is re-broadcast Thursdays from 6 to 7 p.m. on Urban Family Talk, a division of American Family Radio.

Larry proceeded to call that manager every couple of weeks for the next two months. Finally, at a breakfast meeting at the Shoney’s on High Street, the manager said, “If you are as aggressive selling as you have been with me — ‘cause you have worn me out — you are gonna do a great job.”

Larry was given a “nominal” salary and a list of potential advertisers. And that was all he needed. He became the top salesperson over a seven-year period, was recruited by WDBD and then landed at WGBC, the NBC affiliate in Meridian.

Carla and the kids stayed in Jackson.

“I would call home every night, talk to my wife, make sure she’s OK,” Larry said. “I was paying for a house sitter. (Carla) had a nice car. I was buying her jewelry, buying her stuff. She had everything she needed, except she didn’t have me.

“My daughter (Dominique) said, ‘Daddy, I want you to come home.’ … I came home (for a) week, and I was miserable driving back (to Meridian), because I’m leaving my family.”

Larry resigned and came home for good. Relaxed for a couple months. Went to work with his brother-in-law at a local Ford dealership. Then WAPT found out he was back in town.

While working at WAPT the second time, he started pastoring Triumph Missionary Baptist Church in Vicksburg. After several years, he quit the TV station in order to give the church his full attention.

After nearly 11 years at Triumph, God told Larry it was time for him to move on.

“I was like, ‘Well, where am I supposed to go?’ … And the Lord took the taste out of my mouth (for pastoring). And I was like, ‘Lord, I’m accustomed to … being busy. I’m accustomed to being a part of something.’ And the Lord said, ‘I’ll tell you along the way.’”

Larry has since gotten involved with a few different ministries, including his radio show, “Defining Moments with Larry Nicks,” which airs from 11 a.m. to noon every Thursday on 104.5 FM and is rebroadcast by Urban Family Talk, a division of American Family Radio, on Thursdays from 6 to 7 p.m.

Carla and Larry on a glacier cruise in interior Alaska this year.

He also co-created “Talking Sports Live with Rob Jay,” which airs on the local ESPN affiliate, 105.9 FM, and serves on the boards of directors for a few different organizations. Perhaps the most exciting is Pulse Mississippi, an upcoming gospel outreach event featuring Nick Hall, a Billy Graham-style evangelist with a heart for college students, youth and young adults.

Hall and the PULSE movement are booked for Jackson’s Veterans Memorial Stadium for April 27, 2019. The event will feature worship music and a message from Hall. Gov. Phil Bryant has voiced his support for the movement.

“It’s a whole comprehensive template and … structure that we’ve been working on for the past year. We just had the first pastoral summit (for the event) at Mississippi College last week. We had over 338 people to attend,” Larry said.

“It’s not just about an event. It’s about bringing training and discipleship and mentorship and job training and economic development even after the event.”

Larry is grateful to God for helping him use his gifts for His glory — something he didn’t always focus on in the past.

“I grew up, (my siblings and I) grew up, very basic. Some people would say poor,” he said. “I had six siblings. My mother did an incredible job with us. But we didn’t have excess. So when I was exposed to excess … I had gold in my eye. And I chased after it. And I realized that that’s not good.

“And so I said, ‘Lord, if You save me and help change me and restore me, all of the business acumens that You’ve placed in my heart, all of the skills that I have, I will use it for the building of Your kingdom.’ And that’s what I do.”

 

Taking care of each other

Carla’s greatest challenge in her daily life is “knowing when to say no,” Larry said.

“She’s superwoman to everybody. And that can be good but also can be detrimental. … She’s involved in food ministry, she’s involved in outreach, she gives until she is depleted.”

Carla said she learned that from her mother.

“She had a huge heart. That’s kind of where you get that from. We grew up knowing it’s more blessed to give than to receive,” Carla said. “And every kid in the neighborhood hung out at our house because they knew they’d get a good meal, you know.

“I believe God is going to ask the question one day, ‘Did you feed the hungry? Did you clothe the naked?’”

Carla and Larry on their 2018 Alaska vacation.

She said Larry and his dream-big tendencies have inspired and motivated her over the years.

“(He sees) things that you don’t see inside yourself and (helps) to bring that out.

“I think we’ve always believed in doing things with a spirit of excellence for the Lord. … And being able to bounce ideas off each other is huge.”

Larry said he and Carla also try to “steward each other’s health and time. Every now and then I have to tap on her shoulder and say, ‘It’s time to pull back.’”

In that same vein, whenever Carla returns from a work trip, she’ll ask Larry, “What did you eat today?”

“Well that’s not a question,” Larry said. “That’s a statement.”

A recent kale salad stalemate ended with Carla mixing up the salad herself, eating some at dinner and declaring, “Boy, this kale salad is really, really good.”

The next time she returned from out of town? That salad was gone. Yep, she’s got him trained.

 

Reaping a harvest

Carla said she and Larry are grateful to be seeing growth from the spiritual seeds they’ve sown in their children.

Case in point: Alexia, the Nickses’ youngest and a freshman at Mississippi State, was present at this interview. After her folks recounted the “Kmart story,” Alexia said, “So I need to start searching through Kmart (for a man)?”

“No, you don’t search,” Larry said. “The Bible says a man who findeth a wife — “

“… who findeth a wife, findeth himself a good thing,” Alexia recited with him. Not exactly your typical memory verse for a 19-year-old.

When asked if there was anything else one should know about her parents, Alexia said everything they’d talked about in this interview was “how they really are.”

“They don’t have the need to … fabricate their lives for nobody,” she said. “That’s where I get my hope from in being who I am. … When I was younger I never understood it, and I wanted to fit in with the get in.”

Alexia said she hoped to be half the woman her mother is (Carla managed not to cry at this point), “and then prayerfully one day to have someone that’s half the man my dad is.”

A prayerful future for their kids and grandkids: What more could Larry and Carla ask for? But they’re not resting on their laurels, as Carla summed it up:

“We’ve been … honored that the Lord would continue to select us daily for new assignments for the kingdom of God.”

Back row, from left: Nicks children Alexia, Jarvous and Dominique (Jones); Marjon Jones. Front row, from left: Larry and Carla Nicks, granddaughters Skyar and Tristen Jones.