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Denise Nicholas (born Donna Denise Nicholas; July 12, 1944) is an American actress and social activist who was involved in the American Civil Rights Movement. She is known primarily for her role as high school guidance counselor Liz McIntyre on the ABC comedy-drama series Room 222, and for her role as Councilwoman Harriet DeLong on the NBC/CBS drama series In the Heat of the Night. Nicholas was born in Detroit, Michigan, the daughter of Louise Carolyn and Otto Nicholas. She spent her early years in Detroit. With the remarriage of her mother to Robert Burgen, she then moved to Milan, Michigan, a small town south of Ann Arbor. At the age of 16 she appeared on the August 25, 1960 cover of Jet Magazine as a future school teacher prospect at the National High School Institute at Northwestern University. She graduated from Milan High School in 1961. Nicholas is the middle child of three, an older brother, Otto, and a younger sister, Michele, now deceased. She entered the University of Michigan as a pre-law major. While at Michigan she switched her major to Latin-American politics, Spanish and English.