Harmon Mims-Funambulist, Musician, and Photographer

Harmon Mims was born in 1905 and lived a life far from the “proverbial rut,” more like an adventure novel. He enthusiastically embraced learning and changed directions when opportunities presented themselves, and each opportunity developed a new facet of a remarkable life.                                                                                                                 
              As a youngster in Prattville, Harmon had a dream to join the circus and walk the wire. So he taught himself the art of funambulism (wire walking) on his mother’s clothesline. When he moved to Sylacauga at age fifteen to live with his Aunt Emma Mims in her boarding house in Mignon and attend school and work part-time at Avondale Mills, he put up a wire near the Avondale Mills Warehouse and continued to practice. This was in addition to playing football and becoming the quarterback and captain of the team at B.B. Comer School.  Following the examples of famous circus performers, Harmon had the desire to make his act more daring and spectacular so he taught himself to play the trumpet and saxophone so that he could play music as he walked the wire. This in addition to changing clothes as he walked attracted attention, and he performed at various variety shows around Sylacauga that Avondale Mills sponsored.                                                                                                                                    
             Sallie Howell had been a member of the Mignon Band since she was ten years old; and after their marriage in 1924, Harmon joined, too. He played the bass drum while Sallie continued to play the trumpet. Sally toured with Marge Rainey’s Rhythmetts, an all-female orchestra from Nashville, and also worked in the old Central Mill; but because she was so tiny, she had to have help getting her yarn off the frames. The Mignon band traveled to Florida to entertain there; and Harmon continued to walk the wire. This led to a job offer for Harmon to be Band Director for the Avondale Mills Band. It was not until his first child, Mary, was born that a circus offer finally came for Harmon; but this husband and father turned it down.                          
                 After the Mignon Band was invited to Sycamore to play, Harmon was offered a job operating the Sycamore company store owned by Cecil Mizzell and Sallie, a job in Sycamore’s Avondale Kindergarten. Hugh Comer asked him to come be the Band Director for the Sycamore Band. The band room was next to the store so Mr. Comer often came to band practice and babysat with Sara Mims during practice. Public variety shows that included patriotic and swing music became special events on Tuesday evenings at the band hall; and Harmon was not only the Band Master, but also the Toast Master.                                                                                             
               In 1942 the Mims family moved to Sylacauga and continued working with the Mignon Band. Harmon had a swing band called “Harmon Mims and the Harmonies,” that included the very talented Mary; but the entire family was active in all of his band and music activities. Sara Ann was the mascot for the Mignon and Sycamore Bands, a majorette for the B.B. Comer Band and later a Sylacauga High School majorette.                                                                                    
               Harmon Mims started making pictures because his bands would perform for war bond drives and other activities, and there was never a photographer available. He bought a Speed Graphic camera from a serviceman who was going overseas and began taking the pictures himself. He bought darkroom supplies and began developing his own pictures in a small room in Beverly Hall. In 1945 he purchased his first studio at 105 ½ North Broadway, with money he had saved from buying war bonds. His final studio was 533 North Broadway next to Atkinson Real Estate.                                                                                                                                               
             Sallie was his number one supporter, and they were a team in the photography business. They had talented artists like Judy Hartsfield and Betty Gallman working on beautiful oil portraits, and even Don Smith worked there, too. Harmon’s granddaughter, Yebbie Price Copeland, has wonderful memories of developing pictures, re-touching negatives, and tinting, and framing pictures. Yebbie remembers Harmon’s work ethic of doing quality work because he realized that pictures are indeed treasures of a time that would be otherwise lost forever.          
                                                            Harmon Mims, what a man! What a life! Each phase of his life led to another- from student, to wire-walker to football captain to musician, to orchestra leader, to band director, to photographer, he excelled in them all. In his private life, he was an animal whisperer, always having a variety of animals as pets including a rooster named Rooter. Probably most important of all, Harmon was a good Dad and granddad. Because of that, his daughter, Sara Mims Price, and his granddaughter, Yebbie Price Copeland wants his legacy to continue. Special thanks to them for giving us this special look at the Picture Man!