From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Herndon, James "Sweet Evening Breeze"

(born: 1892  -  died: 1983) 

James Herndon, also known as "Sweet Evening Breeze," "Sweets," or "Breeze," is considered by some to be the originator of the Lexington drag scene; men dressing in women's clothes, or cross-dressing, in the 1940s and 1950s in public was very rare. He was generally well-liked in the Lexington community and would participate in random acts of kindness, like baking cakes for people or giving poorer families shoes.

Originally from Scott County, KY, Herndon moved to Lexington as a child and then was abandoned at Good Samaritan Hospital by his uncle after he suffered an eye injury. After growing up in the hospital, he worked as an orderly for over forty years.

He went to church regularly and loved church music. He enjoyed playing the piano, dressing up in women's clothes and makeup, and entertaining at his house on Prall Street, which he shared with his uncle Andrew Smith in 1920, according to the U.S. Federal Census. The last years of his life were spent at Homestead Nursing Center, and he is buried at Lexington Cemetery.

James Herndon is discussed in the documentary The Last Gospel of the Pagan Babies, by Jean Donohue. For more see the six articles from 1983-2009 in the Lexington Herald-Leader and the 2001 thesis Hidden histories, proud communities: multiple narratives in the queer geographies of Lexington, Kentucky, 1930-1999, by Jeffrey Alan Jones.

This entry was submitted by Marcia Rapchak.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Scott County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Fayette County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Herndon, James "Sweet Evening Breeze",” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed May 30, 2024,

Last modified: 2020-06-19 20:05:21