What Al Capone was to Chicago and Albert Anastasia was to New York, Kirksey McCord Nix, Jr. was to the Mississippi Delta and the Gulf Coast: a gangland kingpin. An Oklahoma native with a distinguished family lineage, he first landed in Biloxi in 1962 as a 19-year-old airman stationed at Keesler Air Force Base.
Nix's father, Kirksey McCord Nix Sr., was a widely respected jurist in the Sooner State, serving in both the Oklahoma House of Representatives and the State Senate before taking a seat on the bench of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.
Nix's mother, Patricia, was no less prominent than his father, becoming one of the first women in Oklahoma to practice law. She and the elder Nix divorced when their child was only two years old. When she remarried, it was to the wealthy oilman B.B. Kerr, one of the founders of Kerr-McGee Oil Company. Through his mother's remarriage, Nix now had a U.S. Senator, Robert Kerr, for an uncle.
One might have thought that Kirksey Nix, Jr. (known by his friends and associates simply as "Junior"), coming from such a solid political background, might harbor political ambitions himself, like the scions of other politically prominent families. Instead, he gravitated to the dark side of society and to the characters that made up that shadowy underworld culture.
Nix grew up in McAlester, Okla., where a major source of employment and local revenue was the state prison. Nix was a frequent visitor there. As a child, accompanied by his father, he would play and laugh in its halls, seemingly oblivious to the somber fact that men were caged there behind bars for serious crimes. His father represented the district in the State Senate and it was through his patronage that most of the prison's personnel, from the warden to the guards, got their jobs. In later years as a prisoner himself, Nix seemed to fit into prison life better than many who surrounded him. Perhaps childhood experience had conditioned him.
As an adolescent, Nix had a few minor scrapes with the law and dropped out of high school. He joined the Air National Guard, which trained him in electronics and then sent him to Keesler for a year of active duty. His father, who had connections with the underworld in Biloxi where he frequently vacationed, encouraged him to look up a man named Mike Gillich, who owned a string of motels and nightclubs along "The Strip" that doubled as illicit dens for gambling, prostitution, and drugs. "Junior" did, and soon he and "Mr. Mike" became fast friends and partners in crime.
Nix wasted no time becoming a regular customer at the seedy joints owned and operated by "Mr. Mike." Then he became an employee of Gillich's after his year of active duty. Nix immediately began his rise toward the top of the underworld hierarchy. A stocky, charismatic and dominating figure, he ran many of the profitable card games for Gillich — allegedly cheating if he couldn't beat his opponents fairly — and allegedly rolling them in outside alleyways if they were too drunk to fight back. According to Humes' account, Nix also got involved in dealing drugs and scamming naïve servicemen with promises of hookers, rolling them of whatever money they'd anticipated spending on sex once they'd shown their bankroll.
Through his connections with Gillich, Nix forged connections with fellow con-men, robbers, and other, equally shady segments of the criminal element. Humes reported that this loose network of criminal operators used Gillich's clubs "as meeting places and clearinghouses for plotting crimes throughout the South. Between heists, the club owners carried messages, held loot, hid fugitives, fenced stolen property, and underwrote the expenses for this loose-knit band of criminals in exchange for a piece of the action."
This criminal association became known as the "Dixie Mafia," with Kirksey McCord Nix Jr. front and center in the action.