Leroy Kinman was born in Williamstown, Kentucky on March 13, 1928 to Roy and Alpha Kinman. His wife of 59 years, Shirley Louise, and siblings Lula, Eula, Hilda, Evelyn and Joe predeceased him. He fell asleep (1Thess 4:13) May 8, 2017 at 90 years of age in his home in Arlington, Texas.
Leroy was the youngest son and youngest child of six siblings. On his first Christmas – December 25, 1928 – his father Roy was tragically killed by a hit-and-run driver. As a result, Leroy was raised by his widowed mother and older siblings in the midst of the Great Depression. There was barely enough food, scarcely enough money, yet lots of love as he grew up in a small, rural Kentucky town.
As a young fella he got acquainted with the owners of a local pool hall. One day, seeing his curiosity about the game, someone thought to put him on an empty crate of Coca-Colas so he could see the pool table and balls; before long he’d found a cue he could use and began to play, and he played well. It wasn’t his only hobby – he also played baseball and basketball (it was Kentucky, after all) – but it was the most profitable one as he learned to take on all comers for small wagers in ‘the game of Pharoahs’. He couldn’t be beaten – not in Williamstown, or Covington, or Lexington or even in Cincinnati.
He eventually graduated from Williamstown High School in 1946. He joined the Army Air Force, served for almost 10 months, and visited Texas for the first time. Because his mother had a ‘defense allotment’, Leroy was able to leave service early with some GI benefits and enroll at Eastern Kentucky State College (as it was known then). His interest in pocket billiards led to a meeting with the great Willie Mosconi, who asked why dad had not entered the NCAA pocket billiard tournament. Dad confessed that he didn’t know there was such a tournament, but at Willie’s urging he entered the next year and won the national championship, a feat he repeated in each of his two remaining years (1949-51). For decades he was the only person to have won three championships in a row, the only person to have won each year he entered, and he remains, to this day, the only sportsman from Eastern ever to have been a NCAA champion, much less a three-time champion. He later won the Texas Open pocket billiard championship, and twice was the winner of the Alaska Open. He competed in two U.S. Open Pocket Billiard Championships. Later in life, he became a teacher, friend and mentor to men and women who wanted to learn the game.
After graduating from college in 1951, he arrived at Fort Polk, Louisiana for basic training for field artillery as a second lieutenant. He was the lone Caucasian in the group. He endeared himself to the men in his charge by the respect and dignity he extended them, but was no pushover in matters of order and discipline. He spent two years there until discharge in 1953. But he wanted to get back to Texas.
He briefly worked for the state of Kentucky, then took a job with Bituminous Casualty Corporation in Virginia. His employment at Bituminous was brief, but paved the way for his later work with them. Shortly thereafter he called the Virginia National Guard, was placed back on active duty, and sent to Texas. He was offered a place as a pilot in the newly formed Air Force, but turned it down to be a navigator. He was sent to Waco, Texas to learn his trade. Before long, he and three buddies realized the nightlife was in Dallas, and so they pooled money to rent an apartment there for weekends. Unbeknownst to them, the apartment directly below them housed four American Airlines stewardesses (the term of the day). Before long introductions were made and Roy (=Leroy) and Shirley were an item, then engaged, and finally married on July 28, 1956. Ten months later they welcomed their first son, Brent, into the world.
Leroy worked hard. In addition to a new job with Container Corporation, he joined an Air Force reserve unit in Grand Prairie. To his surprise, he was fired one day, only to then be hired again by Bituminous, where he worked for nearly 30 years. In the mid-1960s, when he realized a growing family required additional income, Leroy opened a ‘pool hall’. Campus Billiard Center was a family friendly place with little smoking, no alcohol, and a great following among UTA students and the public.
As his retirement from Bituminous approached, Leroy ran into an acquaintance that asked, “What’re you doing these days?” Leroy said, “I’m retiring”, to which Rick Miller replied, “no you’re not, you’re gonna work for me” and so began dad’s second career with Petrosurance. Eventually, his wife Shirley joined him as an executive assistant. These were some of the happiest days of his life, when his long years of personal relationships with insureds turned into business because people knew Leroy could be trusted.
During these years his sons were married: first Mark, to Elizabeth Blount (in 1990), then Brent, to Sharon Kuenzel (1992). Soon thereafter grandchildren were born: Michele Sharie, David William, and Stephanie Christina. Finally, a very late-in-life surprise emerged with Isaiah Bryson Kinman, his great grandson.
Although the job demanded that he often be on the road, he made it a point to return home to watch his sons play baseball, basketball, tennis and football. He showed them how to play the games, but far more important, he taught them how to be decent human beings. He served with Shirley as co-presidents of the PTA, and was an active member at Aldersgate United Methodist Church.
After Shirley’s death in October 2015, his energy diminished but he remained generous, typically finishing the crossword puzzle and moving on to writing checks for the good causes who solicited his help. The charities of the world will be diminished with Leroy’s death, as he rarely passed up the opportunity to give to causes as diverse as America itself, especially those representing the less fortunate, the afflicted, and those ‘down on their luck’. Although he possessed a realistic view of human nature and was a good judge of character, he insisted on giving people the benefit of the doubt and preferring to see the best in them. In this way he gave tangible expression to his personal faith in the risen Jesus, a faith that flourished much later in his life.
Raised a Baptist, he joined the Methodist Church as a young father. He was a good man, but his faith in Jesus Christ become more real and personal much later in life through providential encounters with men he respected who reaffirmed his earlier choice to follow Jesus. As an older man, he regularly gave thanks to God for a blessed life, most especially for his beloved wife Shirley and his two sons. When each of them married, and grandchildren appeared, he became the beloved “PaPa” who could be counted on for a kind word, an offer of food, or some ‘walking around money’. The world is a better place, and lots of people have a better life, because of the faithful friend, loving husband, father and grandfather, and generous benefactor that he was. He regularly credited his mother, his wife, and his Lord for blessing him and making him a better man; in turn, he made those of us who knew and loved him, better persons. God has made us to love Him and love others; Leroy did both, and we are forever grateful to God for his remarkable, and unlikely life. Papa, we’ll see you again!