Former Kentucky State University Regent Lester Mimms is being memorialized with a hiking trail in a historic state park! Get the beautiful full story from Madisonville, Kentucky’s The Messenger below.
They called him “Professor.”
From the testimonials of his students, Lester Mimms earned the cognomen as more than just a sign of respect, but also as a term of endearment.
At the time of his death in October 1991, a former student who later worked with Mimms as a teacher, Marion Gill said, “He thought it was necessary for every boy and girl to have an education. He was always interested in his students. He was very good to his students, and his students loved him.
The long-time Hopkins County educator and civic leader was recognized Thursday as a hiking trail at Kenlake State Park was named for him in honor of his service to the young people of Earlington.
The two-mile long trail connects Cherokee State Park with Kenlake Campground in Marshall County.
The trail’s significance mirrors that of Mimm’s own career. Cherokee, now part of Kenlake State Park, was built in 1951 as the only segregated state park in the South, and one of only three such resorts in the entire country. The 300 acres housed a 200-seat dining hall—which was renovated in 2009—a restaurant, cottages, and a bath house. Upon the desegregation of travel and lodging in the 1960s, Cherokee became part of Kenlake. Most of the cabins at Cherokee were relocated and many other structures were abandoned.
Mimms guided the students of J. W. Million High School into the era of desegregation by becoming Kentucky’s first Black principal of an integrated school, Earlington High School, in 1967.
The Professor was the third and final principal of Million, serving in that role from 1943 until its closure in 1965. He taught one year at Earlington before taking the administrative position from which he would retire in 1970.
Mimms was also an outstanding basketball coach.
Gill recalled the excitement the students felt for the Million team.
“”He kept everybody enthusiastic about basketball,” she said. “When we had a game you could hear us all the way to the company store.”
Nora McClain, another former teacher who worked alongside Mimms, recalled in 1989 just how exceptional a job Mimms did with the program.
“He never had more than twelve members on a team, and he never had a losing season,” she said.
She added that Mimms had led the Purple Waves to three appearances in the Kentucky state basketball tournament between 1935 to 1965.
Mimms was named Coach of the Year by The Messenger for the 1963-64 season.
In 1969, the educator was commissioned as a Kentucky Colonel by Gov. Louie Nunn, who also named Mimms to the Board of Regents of Kentucky State University in 1970. He served the Frankfort-based school from 1970 to 1974.
Mimms later became coordinator of Head Start in Hopkins and Muhlenberg counties, and opened several such centers. He also organized and developed the Senior Citizens Center for Hopkins County.
In 1978, Gov. Julian Carroll named him to the State Building and Housing programs.
Simmons Bible College in Louisville awarded Mimms an honorary doctorate in humanities in 1980.
Mimms died Oct. 11, 1991 in Madisonville.