John Philip Nichols, 76, the controversial patriarch of the family that brought the Cabazon Indians into the gambling era. After Nichols became financial advisor in 1978, the tribe launched business ventures including a poker club and bingo hall and the sale of tax-free cigarettes and discount liquor. Under his leadership, the Cabazons established health insurance plans and opportunities in education and employment. In 1987, the tribe joined the Morongo Indians near Banning in a legal battle that resulted in a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that supported rights to conduct gaming operations. Nichols pleaded no contest in 1985 to two felony counts of soliciting the murder of two people he believed were dealing drugs. The killings were never carried out and he spent almost two years in prison. On March 17 of a heart attack at a hospital in Indio.