October 1, 2009 9:25:00 AM
Columbus has one less gentleman.
Josh Franklin "Shields" Sims, 90, passed away Tuesday afternoon at his Columbus residence. The retired attorney and Army major general is now being remembered as a pillar of his community.
Those who knew him well are in complete agreement with regard to Sims'' character.
"He was a gentleman and got along with people very well," said Jeff Smith, who practiced law under Sims at the firm of Sims and Sims since 1979.
"Shields was a true gentleman and a scholar," said Dewitt Hicks, a lawyer and friend who often faced Sims in court.
"He was always a gentleman. He was very fair minded and really insisted on doing what was right," said Sammy Platt, who served on the Columbus Housing Authority Commission for 30 years with Sims.
The kind words serve as punctuation to a record that speaks for itself.
Sims enlisted in the Mississippi National Guard in 1936 and served as a pilot in World War II, flying 74 missions. He later would serve as president of the Mississippi National Guard Association while rising to the rank of major general.
He graduated from the Ole Miss law school after returning home from the war and joined the firm of Sims and Sims with his father, W.L. Sims.
Sims served as attorney for the Columbus Municipal School District for 23 years, seeing the district through integration.
"To say the least, (integration) was a very turbulent an very hard time on the school attorney back then," said Smith.
Sims later would serve as president of the Lowndes County Bar Association.
He also served for 49 years as the executive director for the Columbus Housing Authority. He served as president of the Columbus-Lowndes Chamber of Commerce, the Mississippi Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials, the Columbus-Lowndes Swim Association and the tri-state Division 10 of the Young Men''s Christian Association. Sims also headed the Pushmataha Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America and served as campaign chairman for the Columbus-Lowndes United Way.
Sims served several roles, including Sunday School teacher, for more than 50 years at First United Methodist Church in Columbus.
He has been honored by a plethora of civic groups including the Columbus Exchange Club, Kiwanis Club of Columbus and Civitan Club.
As a lawyer, Sims was respected as a man of integrity.
"His word was his bond. He was a man of the highest honor. With Shields you could shake hands and didn''t have to worry about confirming letters," said Hicks.
Smith remembers Sims as a great mentor to countless young people who passed through the firm, whether as interns or young attorneys.
During his time with the Columbus Housing Authority, Platt fondly recalls traveling to Housing and Urban Development seminars.
Earl Weeks, who took Sims'' place at the head of the Housing Authority, said Sims'' work was more than a local resource.
"Shields had a great working rapport with the HUD folks. He was on the board that established the first statewide liability insurance pool. He was well-known and recognized in housing, not just in the Southeast, but all over the nation," said Weeks.
Weeks, like most who knew Sims, also connected with him on a personal level.
"He was gregarious and loved a joke. I think he was loved by everybody that knew him," he said.
"He was just a nice guy to know and be around. He was very kind," said Platt.
Hicks, who also served as a pilot in the military and attended First United Methodist, shared Sims'' love of hunting birds.
"I had the privilege of many fine quail hunts with Shields," he said.
Although Sims was very successful, Smith said, he was always approachable.
"He was a fun guy, very optimistic on life. He was raised with a humble background, and he handled his success well. He never met a stranger," said Smith.
Sims stayed busy very late into his life, retiring from the Housing Authority in 2001 and practicing law until 2007.
"He was one of the characters that made Columbus special," says Weeks. "The more of those we lose, the less this city will continue to have the flavor it''s had for so many years."
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