She was raised by her mother, who worked as a domestic, and a stepfather. "My mother had four older children, but they were all grown by the time I was nine or 10," she says. "I had spinal meningitis when I was three. The doctors told my mother I'd die. She began to pray for me, and the next day the doctor came back and said that now I had a 50-50 chance, but that if I survived I'd be mentally retarded and physically handicapped. My mother prayed some more, but until high school, I was an anemic and sickly child. I was so shy I wouldn't talk to anybody. I didn't understand who I was, and I didn't much like myself. I was tall, thin and uncoordinated, and I thought I was just about the ugliest thing in the world. When I was six and going to Sunday school, I saw this picture of Jesus holding a little black lamb. I went up to the teacher and asked her if Jesus could hold me like that. The teacher said, "Why yes, he loves you so much he'll hold you.' She said all I had to do was close my eyes. I did, and that teacher—she was so wonderful—just started talking to me, asking me if I could feel Jesus holding me. Well, I really did start to feel this. The next Sunday I got all spruced up, and when the pastor asked me if I'd accepted Jesus as my savior, I said, 'Yessir,' in such a loud voice the whole church cracked up. 'I think she really means it,' the pastor said. He was right. I did.
"The only thing that gave me confidence as a child was singing," Mims says. "When I was singing, I became another person. I can remember even as a young girl singing along with Dionne Warwick and Nancy Wilson on the radio. Actually, I was singing louder than they were, and when people would say to my mother. 'Say, isn't that radio on kinda loud,' my mother would say, 'That's no radio. That's my daughter.'
"I went to John Hay High School in Cleveland. There were only three sports a girl could go out for there—volleyball, basketball and track—and I went out for all three, and we won the state championship in every one of them. They had me run the 440 because I had the longest legs, and I looked like an ostrich out on that track. But Alex Ferenczy, who coached a city team for girls, took an interest in me. He and my mother were both strong disciplinarians, so she approved of what he was doing. He groomed me to become a world-class athlete. I went to Tennessee State University, Wilma Rudolph's old school, and I finally met her in 1967 at the Pan Am Games."
As rewarding as her career in track was, Mims felt she had a higher purpose. At the urging of Bill Glass, a minister who once played for the Cleveland Browns, she started visiting men's prisons, overcoming both terror and embarrassment at her first appearance. "I was wearing this long creamy gown, and as I walked down the aisle, I heard this fellow call out, 'Hey, mama, what's happenin'?' There was a dead silence, but I just walked over to him and shook his hand, and from then on, I had that crowd in my hands. By the time I left there, I was getting standing ovations." In time, she found that women in prison were even more in need of spiritual help than men. "So much attention is directed to men that women prisoners just get what's left over," she says. "No one was getting to their root needs. There are older women in prison who have just plain given up. My group addresses their needs. We have classes in personal improvement, in art, in dance, in home-making. And I see these women responding to us. All of our volunteer workers are women, because these prisoners have learned to distrust men. We're trying to teach them self-esteem and, at the same time, to enhance their faith. And it's working. I had one woman prisoner come up to me and say, 'I never trusted God before. Now I do.' It's wonderful to experience this, to see these women, once so bitter and depressed, changing before your eyes."
All of the prodigious energy she once put into sports Mims is now applying, at 40, to her work and to her family. "It's ridiculous, but I'd forgotten what it's like being a mother," she says. "My baby daughter has changed my life. When I was competing, all of these things—home, baby, my ministry—were on a back burner. Now they're out front. I love to sing and speak and to see people's lives change. That's what keeps me going, people counting on me. I know now that the purpose of my being born was to touch the lives of other people. I feel at peace."
Dr. Bill McColl was a supreme student-athlete, a man of character, a man of conscience. A two-time All-America end at Stanford, in 1950 and '51, he later balanced a professional football career with the Chicago Bears with medical school at the University of Chicago, where he received his M.D. in 1955. He continued to play with the Bears while interning in the off-season at Stanford University Hospital and while serving his residency in orthopedic surgery at the University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago. With the Bears he was the forerunner of the modern tight end. a 6'4", 230-pound blocker-receiver, whose best season was 1958. That year, in 12 games, he caught 35 passes for 517 yards and eight touchdowns.
But he quit football after the 1959 season to devote all of his energies to medicine, and in 1962, he moved with his wife, Barbara, and their six young children to Taegu, South Korea. There he worked as a medical missionary at Presbyterian Hospital and at Ae Rak Won Leprosarium, where he did pioneer work in reconstructive surgery on leprosy patients. He also produced, directed and narrated a film. Highway of Hope. on the rehabilitation of the victims of this debilitating and misunderstood disease. In 1965, he was selected as one of the country's Ten Outstanding Young Men by the U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce, an honor he shares with such illustrious previous winners as John F. Kennedy, Leonard Bernstein, Nelson Rockefeller, Dr. Tom Dooley and Orson Welles.
McColl, now 58, has orthopedic practices in his native San Diego and in Baldwin Park, Calif. Still vitally interested in leprosy research and treatment, he is chairman of the board of American Leprosy Missions, Inc. He is also vice-president of San Diego's Hall of Champions, a museum in Balboa Park devoted to the sports heroes of that city. He is a member of the college football Hall of Fame and was selected to the NFL Hall of Fame for his outstanding "service to humanity."
One of his sons, Milt, has followed almost exactly in his father's impressive footsteps. He is in his eighth season as an NFL linebacker, currently with the Los Angeles Raiders, and he has his M.D. from Stanford and is currently interning at the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. Last summer, Milt accompanied a group of plastic surgeons to Peru to treat villagers, primarily for burns. He is leaning toward specializing in orthopedics. It is one thing to inherit a father's athletic ability, quite another to share his social conscience.
The airy McColl home in La Jolla on a bluff above Tourmaline Beach, with its spacious deck overlooking white sands and the blue Pacific, is hardly the place one expects to watch a film on leprosy. But McColl, who looks and sounds somewhat like Charlton Heston, is justifiably proud of this film, which shows how individuals crippled by the disease can, through prosthetic devices and human understanding, regain a place in a society that has historically rejected them. The voice-over is McColl himself, urging viewers to cast aside irrational preconceptions about an affliction that for centuries has condemned its sufferers to isolation and neglect, and instead to reach out to those brave souls traveling what he calls "the Highway of Hope."