Mimms Exhibit - CHSV

Chesterfield Historical Society of Virginia
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Mimms Exhibit

Chesterfield Historical Society of Virginia
Permanent Museum Exhibit
The Chesterfield Historical Society of Virginia (CHSV)  and the Chesterfield Parks and Recreation unveiled a permanent museum exhibit honoring the late Cornelius Mimms, a pioneer in his own right. (October 28, 2023).  (Reprinted with permission from Chesterfield County Constituent Media Services)
Cornelius Mimms was the eldest of three sons of Cornelius  (b. abt. 1825) & Lucinda (b. abt. 1823) Mimms.  Cornelius  & Lula had 6 children.  Cornelius earned his living as a lawyer.   He served as clerk of The First Baptist Church of Midlothian and the  Spring Creek Baptist Church.  He was superintendant of the First Baptist  Church Sunday School.  Lawyer, Cornelius Mimms died at the  Retreat for the Sick in Richmond, VA.  He was survived by his wife Lula,  six children and one brother.  Cornelius Mimms was the eldest of three sons of Cornelius (b. 17 Sep 1857 in Goochland County, VA  and died on 30 Jun 1932 (aged 74).  He is buried in the First Baptist Church Cemetery in  Midlothian, Chesterfield County, Virginia.  

Cornelius Mimms Exhibit
From slave to supervisor: Cornelius Mimms overcame hardships to make history in Chesterfield
Several members of Cornelius Mimms' family attended Chesterfield's exhibit unveiling ceremony last Saturday.
Born  into slavery in the shadow of the capital of the Confederacy, Cornelius  Mimms overcame countless obstacles to leave a towering legacy of public  service.  During the post-Reconstruction era, Mimms became the  first African American to be elected to the Chesterfield Board of  Supervisors, representing Midlothian from 1881-83 and from 1887-89. More  than a century later, in 2002, the board voted to rename West Krause  Road on the county government complex in his honor. The plaque for the  Mimms Drive dedication describes him as “a man who took the right road, a  friend, a neighbor, a husband and father, loved by all.”

After  being appointed Chesterfield’s county administrator in July 2016, Dr.  Joe Casey, a history buff, was curious and wanted to learn more about  the person behind the Mimms name.  There wasn't much information  available about him online. In a serendipitous bit of timing, however,  the Chesterfield Historical Society of Virginia’s African American  History Committee opened a temporary exhibit on Mimms that fall at the  Chesterfield County Museum, bringing to light the full scope of the  man’s life, accomplishments and contributions to his community. Last  Saturday morning, the historical society unveiled the county museum’s  first permanent African American exhibit, titled “Cornelius Mimms – A  Trailblazer.”  

“What an honor this is,” said Charlotte Wood,  chair of the African American History Committee. “We hope you are  enlightened today at this meaningful event and hope you enjoy the  efforts of all who participated in making it happen.”  Mimms and  his wife, Lula, had six children. Several of Mimms’ descendants attended  the unveiling ceremony and his great-granddaughter, Sharon  Carter-Gunter, spoke on behalf of the family. “I would like to  say how honored and grateful we are for this recognition of the  contributions of our ancestor to Chesterfield County,” she said,  recalling the inscription on her great-grandfather’s tombstone: We must  follow the right path to arrive at the right place. “Today, I can truly say we are at the right place because of the path that was taken by Cornelius Mimms,” she added. (Cornelius Mimms' great-granddaughter, Sharon Carter-Gunter, speaks on behalf of her family at the exhibit unveiling)  

Born  in Goochland County in 1857, Mimms attended Richmond Theological  Seminary and Richmond Institute, a forerunner to Virginia Union  University. In the years that followed Virginia’s 1870 adoption of the  Underwood Constitution, which required the General Assembly to create a  statewide system of free public schools for all children and enshrined  voting rights for African American men in the commonwealth, he received a  teaching license.

At age 20, he was a member of the First Baptist  Church of Midlothian’s Board of Trustees that voted to donate church  property to Chesterfield County as the site of its first elementary  school for African Americans.After graduating from Howard  University in 1885, Mimms was one of the first African Americans to  obtain a law license. He went on to become a prominent attorney in the  area, operating a law office on Hull Street Road in Chesterfield for 46  years and becoming dean of the Richmond Bar Association. Mimms  served as clerk of First Baptist Church Midlothian for 55 years and  superintendent of its Sunday School for 50 years. In addition to two  terms on the Board of Supervisors, he served as the county’s supervisor  of roads and supervisor for the poor.

Mimms also helped his son,  Edward Mimms Sr., establish a funeral home in Richmond in 1925. Today,  another of his great-granddaughters, Mia Mimms, owns and operates Mimms  Funeral Home on Hull Street. “Just like attorney Giles B. Jackson  and banker Maggie L. Walker in Richmond, Mr. Mimms pushed economic  growth as the best way to solve many of the problems facing the African  American community,” said Scott Williams, president of the Chesterfield  Historical Society of Virginia. While Mimms died nearly a century  ago on July 3, 1932, Casey noted that Chesterfield is “not done telling  the stories, things he did and what he can teach us today.   “We  need to understand the way the next generations are learning and put  that information out there,” he said. “There’s no Wikipedia page for  Cornelius Mimms.  If that’s how people are going to learn about him, then  we have to create tools like that.”

The Chesterfield County  Museum, 6813 Mimms Loop, is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4  p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission is free.

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