Featured CAB Legacy Honoree: A Grace Lee Mims
A Grace Lee Mims had been listening to WCLV for years when she decided to contact its president, Robert Conrad. She told Robert WCLV needed a program spotlighting contributions that blacks have made to classical music. After their meeting, Conrad said, “You must promise me to do it for 6 months.” Mims kept her promise---and much more. She has now been hosting “The Black Arts” for 39 years.
Consider Mims’ accomplishments. In addition to “The Black Arts”, which airs on WCLV at 10 pm each Wednesday, the native of Snow Hill, Alabama sang in the Cleveland Orchestra under Robert Shaw and served as soprano soloist at Fairmount Presbyterian Church in Cleveland Heights for two decades.
Before her radio days, Mims was a librarian at the Cleveland Public Library and Glenville High School, where she started a festival of black history and culture. Among her festival guests was Muhammad Ali. Mims also teaches voice to students from the Cleveland School of the Arts at the Music Settlement.
Music has been a constant in Mims’ life. Her mother was a piano prodigy and her father, an electrical engineer who played cornet and was one of the first bandmasters at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. Mims sang for several years with three of her 6 siblings in a jazz-folk ensemble called Descendents of Mike and Phoebe, named after slaves seven generations back in their family. Her brother Bill, was composer and bass player and also the father of film director Spike Lee.
As host of “The Black Arts”, Mims selects the music and writes the script. When not working on her radio show or teaching, she is a frequent presence at concerts.
“The arts are so important to a person’s rounded life,” she said. “A world without the arts, especially music, would be horrible.”
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