Radio host and vocalist A. Grace Lee Mims was born on July 17, 1930 in Snow Hill, Alabama to musicians Arnold W. and Alberta Grace Edwards Lee. Mims graduated valedictorian from Snow Hill Institute, which was founded by her grandfather. She went on to attend and graduate from Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia, and later received her M.L.S degree from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.
Upon graduation, Mims married Howard A. Mims. She was also hired as a librarian in Detroit, Michigan before moving to Cleveland, where she worked at several branches of the Cleveland Public Library. Mims was employed as head librarian at Glenville High School for ten years, where she coordinated the Black Arts Festival, established the most extensive collection of books on African American history and culture in the State of Ohio, and helped found the first Afrocentric lecture course in the Cleveland Public Schools. In 1976, she created and became hostess and producer of “The Black Arts” on WCLV-FM, Cleveland’s classical music radio station. From 1980 to 2010, Mims produced and hosted WCLV’s “Artslog,” a daily five-minute show of interviews. Also in 1980, she was hired as a voice teacher at the Cleveland Music School Settlement.
Mims has served as soprano soloist at Fairmount Presbyterian Church, as soloist with the William Appling singers, as well as throughout the Cleveland area. She was a member of The Cleveland Orchestra Chorus and Chamber Chorus under Robert Shaw, and performed with The New York Bass Violin Choir. In addition, Mims has recorded two albums: “Spirituals,” a solo record, and “A Spirit Speaks” with her family’s jazz-folk ensemble, The Descendants of Mike and Phoebe.
Mims has received numerous honors, including an honorary doctorate of music from Cleveland State University in 1999. In 2007, she was the honoree of the Greater Cleveland Chapter of The National Coalition of the 100 Black Women, Inc., and a recipient the Cleveland Arts Prize Martha Joseph Award in 2011. Mims has also served on many arts-related boards, including the Cleveland Institute of Music, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Cleveland Orchestra's Community Project, the Cleveland Arts Prize Committee, the Western Reserve Historical Society's Black History Archives and The Rainey Institute. Mims and her husband ran the Cleveland Hampton Institute Alumni Scholarship program for over thirty years.
A. Grace Lee Mims was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on February 14, 2014.