By Alyssa Schnugg
For more than 25 years, James “Sonny Boy” Kimmons helped make sure Oxford children and their parents arrived at Oxford Elementary School each morning as a traffic guard with the city of Oxford.
“You could not help but to see him each and every day, rain, sleet or snow with a smile on his face, making sure to wave at every car that passed, while pointing to say hello and directing traffic at the same time,” said his daughter, Lola Pearson, Lafayette County election commissioner.
Kimmons died on Nov. 8 at the age of 92.
Not only was Kimmons known to always have a smile on his face, but he was also known for his ability to make others smile.
“He had this wonderful, heartwarming sense of humor. He would always say something that made you smile and feel good,” said long-time friend Lavera Hodges, whose funeral home, L. Hodges Funeral Service, handled Kimmons’ arrangements. “I’ve never known him to look sad or act sad. He was a wonderful man.”
Hodges said Kimmons would seldom talk about himself and was more interested in asking others how they were doing.
“He would always ask about your family,” she said. “He never forgot my children’s names, no matter how long he had hadn’t seen him. He had such a positive personal character.”
Affectionately known as “Sonny Boy,” Kimmons was born in 1928 and given to Min. Louis and Mary Kimmons who raised him until adulthood and was eventually adopted by Mary Kimmons.
Kimmons joined Smith Chapel under his father’s leadership and later joined Second Missionary Baptist Church where he met Pastor Andrew Robinson 14 years ago.
“Mr. Kimmons was an extraordinary man,” Robinson said. “No matter how bad circumstances were, he could always pull a smile or a laugh out of you. He was genuinely loving. He lifted people up. He treated me with not only the respect of a pastor but as a son.”
Kimmons was the first black person to join the Civil Defense and Rescue Unit in the 1960s.
He loved his blue truck with his long radio antennas, letting his children and family ride in the back while transporting them to Stone Center, church and football games, according to his obituary.
After retirement, Kimmons found enjoyment in going to Springfield M.B. Church Adult Care before the COVID-19 pandemic. The Retired Senior Volunteer Program transit assistance would provide rides for him to the church.
RSVP Coordinator Jamie Briscoe said Kimmons was a kind man to everyone he met, including the RSVP drivers.
“He was a sweet man,” Briscoe said. “I’m glad we could take him to the church where he could visit with others.”
He was often seen sitting on his front porch and waving at the cars that traveled up and down University Avenue.
“He did not meet any strangers because if he did not know you when you first met, you left with a friend for life,” Pearson said of her father. “He had a contagious loving spirit and if he could not change your spirit, no one could, only God. That was his talent – to love everyone he met. One of the most important gifts God gave him was a loving and kindhearted spirit.”
Kimmons was laid to rest on Nov. 11 in the Garden of Memories Cemetery in Oxford.