Sweet Evening Breeze home
186 Prall Street
Born James Herndon in 1892, “Sweet Evening Breeze,” or “Miss Sweets,” was well known and respected in Lexington before and after World War II as the most conscientious hospital orderly in town. Sweets was an African-American gay man who had been abandoned at Good Samaritan Hospital in the city as a child, and eventually came to live and work there.
Sweets was also famous for her drag performances. In a conservative Southern city that had a law on the books against cross-dressing (except on Halloween), Sweets was amazingly accepted and tolerated because of her notable kindness, generosity, and expert abilities as an orderly. (There is one story, though, of her being arrested for cross-dressing and entertaining the guards with a drag show.) Her home on Prall Street (in a predominantly African-American neighborhood) was reportedly an ad-hoc gay center; for a while, she lived here with Henry Faulkner, who went on to become a noted “primitive” artist.
When Sweets died in 1983 at the Homestead Nursing Center in Lexington, the Royal Sovereign Imperial Court of All Kentucky named its highest honor the James Herndon Award. She is buried in Lexington Cemetery.