Kimball M. Sterling

Kimball M. Sterling '74
2000 Award of Honor

Kimball Sterling is a born showman, with a degree in theatre from East Tennessee State University and years on the road as an actor to prove it. Ask his friends and associates and they'll tell you that Kim is larger than life and full of ebullient charm, fire, and laughter.

For Sterling, the path from thespian to auctioneer was a gradual one - his life as an actor kept him constantly out of town and working nights; he needed a way to fill his days. He had fallen in love with collecting and trading antiques at age 16 while living in Union City, Tenn. The solution to his dilemma was simple, yet fully in keeping with his theatrical personality. He became a treasure hunter, taking full advantage of his free time and transient lifestyle to beat the bushes and travel the backroads in search of antiques and collectibles.

Eventually, Sterling grew weary of life on the road and began to search for a new type of treasure -- a place to call home. He decided to combine his knowledge and talents by becoming an auctioneer and appraiser. Sterling added an extra note of joy to the mix by adopting Johnson City as his new home, a place he had grown to love during his years in the theatre program at ETSU under Bud Frank.

It has been said that we are often most successful at doing what we love best, and that certainly seems to make sense in Sterling's case. Sterling has received national attention on more than one occasion, having been entrusted with the sale of such prestigious accounts as the Alex Haley estate in 1991, and Haley's Very Private Collection in 1995. He has sold the only Pulitzer Prize ever sold, the original Roots and Malcolm X manuscripts, and also the lost painting by Jean Léon Gérôme entitled "The End of the Seance." Additionally, he is the only auctioneer to ever be twice awarded the best of show from the National Auctioneers Association.

Sterling has served on the Friends of the Reece Museum board. He arranged for the Gérôme painting, which was painted in 1886, to have its first public viewing at the Reece Museum. He has also conducted over $2 million worth of benefit auctions in the area for good causes, including the Pirate Club, University School, Heart Association benefits, and many more.

Sterling is married to the former Victoria Salley of Kingsport and has three children, Katie, Bobbie, and Emma, and also one grandson, Alexander Williams.