Goodbye and thank you, Kimble
Forrister retiring after 27 years at Arise
“I mean, what does Arise even look like without Kimble?” one of my coworkers asked earlier this year. It’d been a topic of discussion around the office for a few years, ever since our executive director, Kimble Forrister, attached a specific date to his years of warnings that he would, in fact, retire one day. Now, perhaps sooner than any of us expected, that day is at hand.
Kimble will go down in our state’s history for building Arise into a moral force for justice and opportunity for all Alabamians. For decades, he has been a leading light in statewide campaigns to restore balance to Alabama’s upside-down tax system, to improve education and housing, to invest in health care and public transportation and other services that help people get ahead. As The Anniston Star wrote, “There may be no Alabamian alive today who has done more to better the living conditions for his fellow man in the last quarter-century.”
For Arise, Kimble’s legacy is even more foundational. When he first came to the organization, it was still a small, young coalition of congregations and community groups struggling to make a name for itself. Under his leadership, we developed into a respected, well-known voice – in the media and in the halls of government – for the policy concerns of low-income Alabamians. The number of Arise member groups tripled, and the number of individual members increased at an even faster pace. The staff expanded from two to 15. With that growth came policy successes, like an increase in Alabama’s state income tax threshold, passage of a landlord-tenant law and creation of state trust funds for housing and transportation. And it all happened with a collaborative, selfless spirit that permeated the organizational culture, ensuring that “Arise after Kimble” will carry forward that essential spirit.
Kimble isn’t gone from Arise quite yet. He’ll remain as a part-time adviser for a few months to ease the transition, and he’ll be honored at Arise’s 30th anniversary celebration in October. In the long term, he plans to travel with his wife, Calli, and to spend more time with his children, Clare, Ned and Sarah Alice; and his grandson, Keys. More than one colleague has urged Kimble to write that book he’s talked about for years. And given that he’s a huge film guy, we expect him to spend plenty of time at the Capri Theatre in Montgomery.
“I’m planning for this to be a real retirement,” Kimble told me this week. At the time, he was packing up decades’ worth of memories, while also keeping an eye on the Farm Bill and compiling a monthly financial report for the board – giving Arise his all up to the very last moment. Those of us who have had the privilege of knowing Kimble would have expected nothing different.