Chris Nelms – an eight-year member of the Cincinnati Board of Education – died Tuesday after a long battle with cancer.
"Chris and I were running mates three times; and we were very close,'' said Eve Bolton, his close friend and fellow school board member. "There is a terrible sense of loss on the board and in the community. He was the moral compass of the school board."
Ericka Copeland-Dansby, the president of the school board, said Nelms was a mentor to her son, who is a Walnut Hills High School graduate and a sophomore at West Virginia State University.
"He was very fond of my son; he had such a way with young people,'' Copeland-Dansby said. "He really cared. He touched so many in this community."
A graduate of Taft High School and Central State University, Nelms had a life of diverse interests and experiences.
He was drafted out of college by the Cincinnati Reds in 1975 and played for a time in the Reds' farm system. Many years later, he founded the Reviving Baseball in the Inner City program (RBI), which encourages young African-Americans to take up baseball and learn positive life lessons while doing it.
The RBI program is still going strong.
"He had a life-long love of baseball and it showed,'' Bolton said.
Nelms held a doctorate degree and master's degree in education from Xavier University and was most recently employed as a Prevention Educator at Cincinnati Children's Medical Center.
He was also employed by Cincinnati Public Schools, where he served as a teacher, a prevention specialist, a head baseball coach and athletic director.
His personal biography on the Cincinnati Public Schools website says that he has "numerous children, nieces and nephews and grandchildren who have attended or are currently attending Cincinnati Public Schools."
Nelms lived in Westwood with his wife Terry.
He was also a veteran of the U.S. Navy, a licensed social worker and a minister.
Bolton said that Nelms began every session of the board of education "by saying a personal prayer to himself and encouraging us to hug each other and focus on the children we serve."
Bolton said she has talked to the family and they are still working out details for his funeral.
Nelms' current term runs through Dec. 31, 2019.
The remaining six members of the Cincinnati Board of Election will choose someone to serve out his term. Under Ohio law, they can't do so until at least 10 days after the vacancy occurs.
If the board cannot agree on a replacement within 30 days, the appointment will be made by the county's probate court judge, under Ohio law.
"We will choose a replacement, but Chris was a special person and he will never be forgotten by the people who served with him, and everyone whose lives were touched by him,'' Bolton said.