MIMS, A. GRACE LEE (17 July 17 1930 – 3 October 2019) was an educator, a musician, and an advocate for African-American culture. She was born in Snow Hill, Alabama, to Arnold Wadsworth and Alberta Grace (Edwards) Lee. Hers was a musical family. Her father, a band director, played the cornet; her mother was a classically trained pianist. In the 1970s, A. Grace, with siblings Consuela, Bill, and Clifton, would perform and record as The Descendants of Mike and Phoebe, a jazz-folk ensemble.
She was valedictorian of her class at Snow Hill Institute in Snow Hill, Alabama, established by her grandfather, William James Edwards. She graduated from Hampton University in 1952 with a major in English and a minor in voice. In 1953, she earned a master’s degree in Library Science from Western Reserve University (see CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY), writing her master’s thesis on CHARLES W. CHESNUTT. She married college classmate Howard Alexander Mims in 1954.
She became the innovative head librarian at Glenville High School, creating a collection of African American literature and introducing an Afrocentric class into the CLEVELAND PUBLIC SCHOOLS’ curriculum.
Mims had a second career as a professional musician. She performed as the soprano soloist at FAIRMOUNT PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH for 20 years, sang with the CLEVELAND ORCHESTRA Chorus and Chamber Chorus, and made two recordings of African American spirituals. She taught at the MUSIC SCHOOL SETTLEMENT from 1980 to 2018.
She was probably best known to Clevelanders as the host of two radio shows on WCLV-FM. In 1976, she persuaded the station’s president Robert Conrad to create the show on jazz and classical music that became “Black Arts.” It was on the air for 43 years; her guests included Jessye Norman, Miles Davis, Leontyne Price, and Alex Haley. Mims also hosted a 5-minute show on WCLV called “Artslog,” which ran for 30 years.
Mims and her husband, also a radio host and director of the Black Studies Program at CLEVELAND STATE UNIVERSITY, established the Cleveland chapter of the Hampton University Alumni Association, which awards scholarships to local students attending Hampton. With the CLEVELAND FOUNDATION, she established a vocal scholarship to promote the performance and preservation of black spirituals. Mims helped to found the African American Archives Auxiliary of the WESTERN RESERVE HISTORICAL SOCIETY.
Her honors include an honorary doctorate in music from Cleveland State University, the Martha Joseph Prize for Distinguished Service to the Arts, the Theodore J. Horvath award from RAINEY INSTITUTE, and the Outstanding Musical Alumnus Award from Hampton University.
Mims and her husband had no children. She is buried in LAKE VIEW CEMETERY.