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A. Grace Lee Mims

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.

Accession Number

A2014.071

Sex

Female

Interview Date

2/14/2014

Last Name

Mims

Maker Category
Marital Status

Widow

Middle Name

Grace

Occupation
Schools

Case Western Reserve University

Hampton University

Snow Hill Institute

Cleveland State University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

A.

Birth City, State, Country

Snow Hill

HM ID

MIM02

Favorite Season

None

State

Alabama

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Ohio

Birth Date

7/17/1930

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Cleveland

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Short Description

Radio host and vocalist A. Grace Lee Mims (1930 - ) has hosted “The Black Arts” and “Artslog” on Cleveland’s WCLV-FM radio for over thirty years. She is an accomplished vocalist and has been a voice teacher at the Cleveland Music School Settlement since 1980.

Employment

Detroit Public Library

Cleveland Public Library

Cleveland Orchestra Chorus

Glenville High School

WCLV-FM

Cleveland Music School Settlement

The Descendants of Mike and Phoebe

U.S. Government

Hampton University

Favorite Color

None

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Grace Mims' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Grace Mims lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Grace Mims discusses her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Grace Mims talks about her maternal grandfather's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Grace Mims attempts to remember the founding date of Snow Hill Normal and Industrial Institute

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Grace Mims talks about her mother's childhood experiences as a piano prodigy

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Grace Mims talks about the John Work Coral in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Grace Mims shares the story of her parents' elopement in the early 1900s

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Grace Mims briefly describes her father's early work history

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Grace Mims discusses her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Grace Mims traces her father's career path from Spelman College to Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Grace Mims talks about her parents' love of jazz and classical music

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Grace Mims talks about how her parents' careers influenced her upbringing

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Grace Mims talks about her childhood family's band

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Grace Mims describes her parents' personalities

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Grace Mims talks about her siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Grace Mims describes Snow Hill Normal and Industrial Institute and the surrounding neighborhood

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Grace Mims talks about the origin of her home town's name

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Grace Mims briefly describes the demographics and business culture of her home town and the surrounding area

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Grace Mims shares how church and college shaped her musical influences and knowledge

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Grace Mims describes how music influenced her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Grace Mims describes how African Americans have shaped American music

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Grace Mims compares and contrasts the Negro spiritual and gospel music

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Grace Mims talks about influential Negro spiritual composers

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Grace Mims discusses how her teachers and parents influenced her decision to go to college

Tape: 2 Story: 14 - Grace Mims shares how her teacher influenced her to become a librarian

Tape: 2 Story: 15 - Grace Mims recalls rarely traveling outside of her hometown during her childhood

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Grace Mims shares memories of her grandfather

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Grace Mims talks about Mary McLeod Bethune and other well-known African Americans who visited Snow Hill Normal and Industrial Institute

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Grace Mims talks about her grandfather's autobiography

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Grace Mims describes her academic accomplishments at Snow Hill Normal and Industrial Institute, and the school's influence on the surrounding community

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Grace Mims describes her extracurricular activities in high school

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Grace Mims discusses her experiences at Hampton Institute

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Grace Mims talks about the early years of her marriage and her career

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Grace Mims describes her experiences at Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Music School Settlement

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Grace Mims describes her work as a librarian and her work on the Eusi SiKuki Festival in Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Grace Mims talks about her husband's, Howard Mims' role in the Black Studies Movement and the importance of African American history and culture

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Grace Mims describes the area surrounding Glenville High School

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Grace Mims talks about her civic involvement in Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Grace Mims talks about performing with the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Grace Mims talks about her family's singing group, The Descendants of Mike and Phoebe, part 1

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Grace Mims talks about her cousin Donald Stone

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Grace Mims talks about performing with her family's band, The Descendants of Mike and Phoebe, part 2

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Grace Mims talks about hosting "The Black Arts" program on Cleveland's WCLV-FM classical music station

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Grace Mims describes her nephews, filmmakers Spike Lee and Malcom D. Lee

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Grace Mims briefly discusses her radio show "Arts Log"

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Grace Mims talks about support of the arts

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Grace Mims shares her thoughts about contemporary music

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Grace Mims talks about performing with the William Appling Singers

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Grace Mims talks about performing as a soprano for the Fairmount Presbyterian Church

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Grace Mims describes teaching at the Cleveland Music School Settlement

Tape: 4 Story: 13 - Grace Mims discusses her philosophy about teaching and music

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Grace Mims reflects upon her career and her legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Grace Mims describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Grace Mims reflects upon her lack of desire to write a book about black music

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Grace Mims talks about individuals who share her musical philosophy

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Grace Mims describes her influence on the future of classically-trained musical artists

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Grace Mims discusses the life and legacy of her late husband Howard A. Mims

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Grace Mims shares how she wants to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Grace Mims describes her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$3

DAStory

5$4

DATitle
Grace Mims talks about hosting "The Black Arts" program on Cleveland's WCLV-FM classical music station
Grace Mims describes her academic accomplishments at Snow Hill Normal and Industrial Institute, and the school's influence on the surrounding community
Transcript
So, now you started--tell us how you started "The Black Arts" Show?$$As I told you I loved classical music so WCLV [FM] is Cleveland's classical music station. So I would always listen to it. And they had of course all the, you know Italian, blah, blah, blah, but they had a program for the Jewish hour, Catholic hour; nothing for Blacks. So I called Bob Conrad and said, what do you think about having a program that features the contributions that Blacks have made to classical music? He said come in and talk to me about it. At that time the--they were down at Terminal Tower which is a big, tall tower downtown [Cleveland, Ohio]. And so I went down and told him what I had in mind and some of the artists I had in mind and he said well do a trial program for me. I did that trial program. I did it with Jessye Norman. Jessye Norman. And he liked it and he said I would like to have you continue to do this but you must do it at least six months. I would, you know, you must agree to do it for at least six months and I've been there, what's it 37 years? Is that 37? [Laughter].$$Now this is--your first, your trial show is with Jessye Norman?$$Yeah.$$And now was Jessye Norman as big a star then as she is now?$$Was she what?$$Was she as big a star then--?$$She was a big star at the time. Yeah--$$Right, okay.$$--because I had records and CDs to play, you know.$$Yeah.$$But my first show turned, I did Leontyne Price, the first, you know when he--when I was on in May of 1976, I did Leontyne Price. And every five years I repeat that because I--the title was Leontyne Price in Prayer, you know, and used a lot of Verdi Arias and things at where she would be--the heroine would be praying as well as at the end. And I always try to use spirituals at the end of my show that would you know--songs that had prayer in them or in the title. Like, "I Couldn't Hear Nobody Pray" or whatever. So that's what I did.$$So--$$And that's what I still do.$$Okay. So did the station manager know who Jessye Norman was when--?$$Oh yes, everybody knew who these classical artists are.$$Okay.$$And I try to pay tribute to them on their birthdays. I find out when their birthdays are cause I just did Leontyne Price. She was born in February, and coming up Marian Anderson's birthday, you know, I try to do birthdays. And I did Joe Wilder who is a trumpet player who was the--a forerunner of Wynton Marsalis because he can play classical and jazz. And he's 93, I believe now coming up. I just saw in the New York Times that they're doing some kind of tribute to him and he's on up there now. But I try to acknowledge them on their birthdays. I usually do Miles Davis and Duke Ellington, but I usually have classical artists. And if new people are coming in all the time I try to you know, spotlight them as well.$$Okay. So you do like a weekly show--$$Weekly show, Wednesday nights from 10 [p.m.] to 11 [p.m.], weekly, one hour show.$$Now did the show ever interfere with your performances on the road with The Descendants?$$If they do, I you know, I'm not traveling anymore you know so--$$I mean in those days.$$In those days--$$Yeah.$$I could record, put it in, in advance, you know. Like I said we weren't out for two and three weeks. We would you know go to a college and, couple of days at the most, you know. You do your rehearsal and the concert and come back home.$$Okay.$$So it wasn't a matter of being out for a long period of time, no. And certainly didn't interfere and if it did I would just tape it another day.$$So, now did you have children during this period of time?$$For--did my husband and I have children? No, I don't have any children.$$Oh okay, all right. So you didn't have to worry about trying to take care of children and--$$No.$$--travel and all that.$$No.$$Okay, all right.$Now did you have any--I mean could you afford to get bad grades when you were growing up?$$Never thought about it. Always, just came natural. I was valedictorian of my high school at Snow Hill [Industrial and Normal Institute, Snow Hill, Alabama]. And so I never even thought about bad grades, didn't think about bad grades when I went to Hampton [Institute, Hampton, Virginia]. I graduated second in my class at Hampton. I'm just wondering, now was Snow Hill [Normal and Industrial Institute, Snow Hill, Alabama] sort of like a cultural gathering place for the rest of the community there, you know? You--I imagine some of the school--did Snow Hill have a library too?$$Yeah, we had a library.$$You had a library. So you had all--yeah. So--$$But it was just a warm feeling. The people didn't come on campus except for special occasions you know. But there was a tree and around that tree was a bench and they would wait for the mail there and that--that's where all the community gossip and stuff would go on. That's where the men said they heard Ms. Stedward's daughter got married. But anyway, everybody met and that was just down a slope from my [maternal] grandfather's [William James Edwards] house and everybody would gather around that tree for mail. And the mail would--the Rural Free Delivery, FDR [RFD]. You know we had--and it was a white man who came--Mr. Stabler, he was very nice and he drove over and gave us--everybody their mail.$$Okay.$$But people lived on over--it felt very you know, warmly towards the school but they weren't down there all the time. I mean it was a school. It was a school and it was for the people who came and were down there as boarding school students and teachers who lived with them in the dormitory who were the dormitory school masters as well as teachers. So--$$I didn't ask you about the students but who were--are there any remarkable students who were there or people that are memorable that you remember from your Snow Hill school days?$$I don't remember any outstanding students when I was there. My mother [Alberta Edwards Lee] had written information about the school and she gave it to us. I think I gave you a copy of that. But I can't remember anybody in, you know during my era that was--became famous except Bill Lee [brother] was probably, you know--Spike's dad Bill was somewhat famous with his composing and playing in jazz groups.