The Associated Press
State Sen. Andy Nichols, a veteran lawmaker from Tucson who is a leading supporter of public health programs, died yesterday evening after collapsing in his office. He was 64.
Nichols, a University of Arizona faculty member and administrator, had finished a telephone conversation in his third-floor Senate office about 6 p.m. when he put his head down on his desk and then collapsed on the floor, a witness said.
University medical student Pat Sciara said he and another person administered CPR before Phoenix Fire Department paramedics arrived.
Sciara said he was in Phoenix for a lecture and was in Nichols' office to discuss that when the senator collapsed.
"I thought he passed out," Sciara said.
The last Arizona legislator to die in office was Rep. Elise Salinger, D-Phoenix, in 1999. She was found dead in her home of natural causes.
Nichols, a Democrat, was a physician in family and community medicine. He has been director of the University of Arizona Rural Health Office since 1970.
Nichols was first elected to the House of Representatives as a Democrat in 1993 and served there through 2000. This is his first year in the Senate, where he is a member of the Appropriations Committee and vice chairman of the Health and Banking and Insurance committees.
He helped engineer the Democrats' even power split in the Senate by defeating then-fellow Rep. Kathleen Dunbar for the District 13 seat being vacated by Democrat George Cunningham of Tucson.
He was the primary architect of Proposition 204, a ballot measure approved by voters last year that will spend the state's portion of the national lawsuit settlement with tobacco companies on public health care programs.
He also promoted child safety legislation, including bills to prohibit children from riding unrestrained in the beds of pickup truck.
Nichols, married with three children, came to Arizona from Kentucky as a teen-ager in 1951. He graduated from Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, received his doctorate in medicine from Stanford Medical School and a master's in public health from Harvard.