By Gary “Digital” Williams
He made history in boxing as the first black vice president of the World Boxing Association. He was so well-known that Don King was his best man at his wedding in 2002. And he was a real estate mogul that sold some of the first embassy properties in Washington, DC to newly independent African countries. Such was the extraordinary life of York Van Nixon who passed away on August 1 of cancer in DC at the age of 84.
Mr. Van Nixon was born on a reservation in Idaho in 1926. He eventually made his way to DC where he was a semi-pro baseball and also worked as a professional wrestler known as “Vitamin Van,” one of the few African-American pro wrestlers in the business in the 50’s. Mr. Van Nixon wrestled with Bobo Brazil and “Big Daddy” Lipscomb against the likes of Antonino Rocca and Buddy Rogers.
Mr. Van Nixon graduated from Howard University with a degree in property management and parlayed that degree into becoming a real estate mogul. A February 2009 issue of Hill Rag said Mr. Van Nixon “was living the good life with ninehouses, a Cadillac and a Lincoln, and a 36-foot yacht christened the York V. But this wealth clouded his business judgment when he opened the VIP Lounge, the first African-American supper club in DC. Eartha Kitt headlined opening night. Celebrities crowded through its doors, but employees stole from him to the point of bankruptcy.”
In the 70’s, DC Mayor Walter Washington appointed Mr. Van Nixon to the DC Boxing and Wrestling Commission, where he led the commission until the early 80’s. Mr. Van Nixon also was a judge for numerous world title bouts. He then became the first minority to hold an office with the World Boxing Association, first as a vice president and then as the International Commissioner. Congress also nominated Van Nixon to serve as chair of a Federal Boxing Commission.
On May 13, 2006, DC government proclaimed “York Van Nixon Day” in the city for his more than 50 years of boxing service. Mr. Van Nixon is survived by his wife, Panitda, sons York Van Nixon III and Steven Nixon as well as Three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.