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Obituary - A. Grace Lee Mims

A Grace Lee Mims on the cover of her 1981 gospel album, Spirituals. [Warner Thomas]
A Grace Lee Mims from the cover of her 1981 album of spirituals. (photo: Warner Thomas)

(updated 10/7 with Memorial information)
ideastream learned Thursday afternoon A. Grace Mims passed away in her home. We have lost a dear friend and colleague.

A. Grace Lee Mims had been listening to WCLV for years when she decided to contact its president, Robert Conrad and tell him WCLV needed a program spotlighting the contributions people of color made to classical music.

“You have to promise to do the show for at least six months,” Conrad said at that meeting. Mims kept her promise – and much more. She hosted “The Black Arts” on WCLV for 43 years.

In addition to “The Black Arts,” the native of Snow Hill, Ala., sang in the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus under Robert Shaw and served as soprano soloist at Fairmount Presbyterian Church in Cleveland Heights for two decades.

Before her days in radio, Mims was a librarian at the Cleveland Public Library and Glenville High School, where she founded a festival of black history and culture. Among her festival guests was the great Muhammad Ali.  

She was the devoted wife of the late Howard Mims, former Director of Black Studies at Cleveland State University, for whom the University’s African American Cultural Center is named. 

Mims was active on many boards and received awards from numerous organizations, including The Rainey Institute, the Cleveland Association of Broadcasters and the Greater Cleveland Chapter of The National Coalition of the 100 Black Women. She also received an honorary doctorate of music from Cleveland State University, along with a Cleveland Arts Prize Martha Joseph Award.

Music was a constant in her life. Her mother was a piano prodigy and her father, an electrical engineer who played cornet, was one of the first bandmasters at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. She sang for several years with three of her six siblings in a jazz-folk ensemble called Descendants of Mike and Phoebe, named after slaves seven generations back in their family. Her brother Bill was a composer, bass player and the proud father of director Spike Lee.

Mims once said: “The arts are so important to a person’s rounded life. A world without the arts, especially music, would be horrible.” 

We agree. Thank you, Grace, for your contributions to WCLV and the community at large. 

A. Grace Lee Mims, dead at the age of 89.  

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A memorial is planned for Friday, October 11, 2019, 6-8pm at Saint James A.M.E. Church; 8401 Cedar Ave, Cleveland.  Visitation is at 5pm.

There is a special edition of  The Black Arts scheduled for Wednesday, October 9, 10:00 PM.  The program will feature recordings of Grace's album of spirituals and selections from a recent program celebrating Jessye Norman.

[Cleveland Arts Prize]