POUGHKEEPSIE - Harold Kimble never had it so good. If you don’t believe it, just read his business card.
The Poughkeepsie High School security guard utters this phrase whenever he is asked how he is doing. The sentiment could not be more accurate. Influencing a host of children’s lives every day, the man who is frequently mistaken for the actor James Earl Jones is also heavily involved in the arts. An actor, saxophone player, as well as elder at his church, the 61-year-old Kimble, has also been a foster parent to over 60 children since 1991. In fact, he recently heard from his very first foster child, residing in Alabama and doing very well. He and his wife Christine, who he lovingly refers to as his "pillar of fortitude" and "true lover of children," have two children of their own and currently three foster and four adopted children. Being a good father is a role the South Carolina native takes very seriously.
"I love being a parent; sometimes I have to yell and scream a lot, but it’s really about being a nourisher and a protector," said Kimble. "My dad, who beat my mother, disappeared when I was 10, so I wanted to do things right, put a stake in the ground and really make a difference."
Whether he’s walking down the halls of the high school or interacting with one of his several children, Kimble dedicates himself to making that difference, by continually serving as a role model. The challenges surround him, but he is committed to tackling them head-on.
"Some teenagers have a misguided sense of what respect is; they want respect in how they perceive it, wanting to get it but not always give it," pointed out Kimble. "I do think my patience helps in getting through to some of them, but I can’t get to all of them."
But for the ones Kimble does impact, the impression is lasting. Known around Poughkeepsie High School as "Uncle Harold," "The Verizon Man," and "King Jafa" from the movie "Coming to America," Kimble cites a note he once got in his school mailbox saying, "You rock!" He further relates how another student once paid him the ultimate compliment, saying he made her feel safe. Although a security guard by title, Kimble’s purpose runs much deeper.
"I’m part of the educational process; I see my job as being to help make the best product possible," said Kimble. "I want to help kids ultimately do something positive in society; they are my mission."
Speaking in a distinctive deep voice, he not only sports the physical appearance of James Earl Jones, but possesses his vocals as well. In fact, it was that voice that incited his acting career, which has included performances on such stages as The County Players in Wappingers Falls and The Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck. Cases of mistaken identity occur on a regular basis. Once, while visiting his son in Fort Leonard, Mississippi, two women followed him around a local Walmart, insisting he was Jones, and then proceeded to get his autograph, even as he continually told them he was not the legendary actor. Kimble, gracious as always, complied with the urgent request.
"I signed it Harold Kimble as James Earl Jones," recalled a smiling Kimble.
Although he has never met Jones, another Hudson Valley resident, it is one of his goals. The remainder of his priorities revolve around his passion, the youth. Setting a solid standard each and every day for them is what truly matters.
"Children will rise to whatever you expect," affirmed Kimble. "Whether it’s being a doctor or a gangster, they will follow whatever is expected of them."
With the school year set to get underway next week, Kimble will once again be putting on his school security guard uniform. He will do so with pride, adhering to a strict, personal code of helping and changing children’s lives.
"I don’t think I give enough; Martin Luther King, Jr. and Jesus Christ gave their lives for us," said Kimble. "Blacks as a people have always been a group to help others, having to do it through slavery and segregation; there is a need to keep on doing it." Pondering further, he adds, "It’s not about being the security officer that matters, but the experience that lies within the person and how that can positively affect others’ lives."