The past week has been difficult for our city because one of its most influential leaders of the past few decades passed away. But for me, I also lost a great friend and mentor.
My first contact with Mr. King was a phone call to tell me my CPEs were late for my CPA license – he had checked the registry – which tells you a lot about his expectations and belief that things should be buttoned up at all times.
Since early in my career I have been blessed to feel, like many, that I was under the ‘Jim King Tent.’ We became close over a personal matter that joined us in a trusting and intimate way, and bonded us as kindred spirits forever.
Through the years he took my wife, Sony, and I to Derby when we still lived in Florida. He and I had regular lunches, discussed how to improve our city, watched U of L games and shared political fundraisers. Every time I was with Mr. King, I learned life lessons to remember.
Here is my list:
Lesson 1 – You can successfully serve your family, business and city at the same time.
Lesson 2 – You can hold strong views grounded in personal experience, but still meet people halfway – which he did for me several times when I needed him most.
Lesson 3 – You can build a great legacy without a head start. Personal or professional, his achievements were always carried out with passion, diligence, and great planning.
Lesson 4 – There is no time for excuses or failure to execute – Mr. King overcame obstacles with amazing tenacity, never thinking about failure.
Lesson 5 – Do your homework because details always matter. Mr. King spent countless hours reading every loan, city ordinance and financing obligation; his technical business acumen built a lasting bank and saved our city millions of dollars. It was all in the details.
Lesson 6 – You can lead the people and still be one of them. Mr. King had great charisma and a scary memory so he maintained relations with ease, but his crowd was never just the powerful and influential – it was always everyone.
Lesson 7 – Be Present. When you were with Mr. King, he looked you in the eyes, ignored his phone, asked questions and made you feel like your issue was his issue to solve together.
Lesson 8 – Support your children’s dreams at all costs. Mr. King supported, pushed, and challenged his kids. He protected them but also taught them everything he knew about leadership and responsibility – which was a blessing to watch.
Lesson 9 – Always go “all in.” Mr. King relentlessly pushed himself and everyone around him. When he believed in anything, there was no “I’ll try” – it was a quest to make sure it happens no matter what!
Lesson 10 – If Mr. King really liked you, you were blessed. I knew I could go to Mr. King for personal or professional counsel, and would always receive unconditional love.
At our last private lunch we talked about the illness briefly, but we talked more about his love for his beautiful wife, Debbie, and how he kissed her differently now. We talked about future hopes for his family, and dreams still unfulfilled for our great city. Like always, we held hands and prayed for a miracle to beat his cancer, thanked God for abundant blessings, asked God to protect our loved ones, and to guard our children’s souls!
My life was changed by Jim King. Now that he is gone I am just going to try and live his life’s lessons, which I learned up close and personal!
A version of this article appeared in the Jan. 23 edition of Business First of Louisville.
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