- Associated Press - Monday, October 3, 2016

GREENWOOD, Miss. (AP) - “Ain’t nothing 100 percent pure except Jesus Christ.”

This is the guiding philosophy of a familiar voice in Greenwood, best known as Shoe Doctor.

Dewitt Kimble can be heard shouting praise most mornings on AM radio station WABG.

In the afternoons, he’s at his shoe repair shop and overloaded used merchandise store on Carrollton Avenue in downtown Greenwood. Everything inside, from furniture and appliances to lamps and wheelchairs, is for sale, though finding what you’re looking for might be a challenge.

A sign on the front door proclaims, “Warning: This store protected by Jesus Christ.”

Most days you’ll find Kimble sitting out on the sidewalk, entertaining a steady stream of customers and friends.

Kimble, 66, says he started in the shoe business back in 1979 over on Johnson Street.

“I didn’t know nothin’ about shoes but wearing ‘em,” he said.

A customer from Grenada pulls up and struggles out of his car, leaning on a cane. He hands over a grocery bag with a boot in it - a soft, leather work boot with a rubber sole.

The man says he’s come by a couple of times and Shoe Doctor wasn’t here. He didn’t know where else to take his shoes.

“Doctor’ll take care of it,” says Kimble, pulling the boot out of its bag. “You can’t quit me now.”

The man says to raise the sole about three fourths of an inch, like he’s done before.

Shoe Doctor tells him to leave the boot on the counter inside and come by in a couple of days to pick it up. No order forms or receipts pass hands, just a warm hand shake and some small talk about Grenada.

Kimble wears a short sleeve cotton dress shirt and a tie emblazoned with images of praying hands.

A self-proclaimed former drug addict who lived in a “crack coma” for a good five years, Kimble has been in scrapes with the law, was prosecuted and jailed and, he says, has relied on the good Lord to pull him through.

His radio program, broadcast weekday mornings from 10 till noon, and on Sunday from 8 to 11 a.m., is fundamentally one long prayer, shouted out over the rhythm of traditional blues gospel.

For some people, he says, it’s church, though he encourages his listeners to find a church where they can enjoy fellowship.

On the radio, he calls out the names of fellow Christians and sinners, one and the same, “‘cause nothing’s 100 percent,” he said.

When he gets into his spirit filled groove, an incantation of names squealed in a raspy voice that radiates joy, Kimble says he is overtaken.

“To be honest with you, it’s not me,” he said. “It seems like me, but it’s not. I’ve got a list, but if I’m sitting there and a person’s name comes to me through the spirit, it just comes out, whatever name goes with that song.”

Kimble says people call in crying sometimes, “overflowing, filled with the spirit.”

He’s been playing gospel on the radio since 1986 as a “time broker” - that is, someone who pays to purchase broadcast time. It’s gotten more and more expensive over the years, up to as much as $150 per hour in recent months, according to Kimble. He relies on his business and on donations from listeners to pay the bills.

“The hardest thing to sell is gospel,” Kimble said. “When you have a blues concert over in the Civic Center, it’s packed. Then they bring in a gospel show and nobody comes.

“But there’s a feelin’ in gospel you don’t get nowhere else.”

Kimble says he visits churches from time to time, but quit the Itta Bena church he used to attend regularly after becoming disillusioned with its “jackleg preacher.”

“People have got so corrupt,” he said. “It’s all about the dollar. Taking up a collection, all this money, from people who can’t pay their gas bill, their electric bill.”

Churches, he says, should have a rainy-day fund set aside for their members when they are in need.

“I feel like they s’posed to know about their people, their pain, their suffering,” he said. “We got a lot of pain and suffering in our community.”

Kimble recounts the time of his own pain and suffering, when he lost a string of businesses, his family and his dignity to crack cocaine, when he lived in a series of abandoned houses.

One night, he said, he was sleeping in a bathtub in one of those houses because it was the coolest place in the house. Someone threw a brick through the window, and it landed on him.

“You wouldn’t believe how cruel people can be to you when you’re in a crack coma,” he said.

“People treat you so bad. What they don’t see is it’s the drugs making that person walk around in a coma. There’s some good in those crack smokers.”

After all, he says, nothing’s 100 percent.

___

Information from: The Greenwood Commonwealth, http://www.gwcommonwealth.com

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