"Tiny Tim" Timpson was the kind of man who could recognize opportunity when it walked by. Standing on the streets of Washington, he noted that a lot of people needed a shoeshine, so he opened a shoeshine stand.
"When it comes to shoeshining, I don't know anything I can do better," said "Tiny Tim," whose real name was John C. Timpson, a few months after he got his operation going in 1975.
He opened his stand on the sidewalk of the 1100 block of L Street NW, which contains the Madison Hotel. The Washington Post and several large office buildings. Keeping up with the times and the pressures of inflation, he raised his prices from 50 cents to 65 cents and then to 75 cents.
By all accounts, he prospered.
Mr. Timpson died Oct. 17 at Capitol Hill Hospital of a heart ailment, ending a life that began 49 years ago in Anderson, S.C.
He left home at the age of 12 and did some wandering.In the early 1950s, he served in the Army in Germany. When he got out, he went to New York, where he started shining shoes.
For 15 years he polished shoes at the port authority bus terminal. He would shine shoes until the crowds thinned out at the end of the day, and then he would drive a cab. He also got a job as a school bus driver.
He was always looking for something new, something that would be a job working with people. But mainly he looked for work, for he had to support a family that grew to include six sons in addition to his wife.
Eventually, Mr. Timpson decided he had had enough of the grind in New York. So in early 1975 he came to Washington and got a job as a security guard. The hours were long and he did not like the work.
He interviewed for a porter's job and that is what persuaded him to go into business for himself.
"This woman was interviewing about 90 people to see who would fit a porter's job - to mop floors! I'll never go through that again," he said, from the advantage point of his shoeshine stand.
The stand, which Mr. Timpson built himself, was unusual. The first model was a black, varnished contraption on wheels. With hidden drawers and compartments and bolted-on hardwood chairs. He installed a canopy that was once a window awning. From the top of the stand flew several American flags of different sizes.
"He told me he put the flags up because it was the Bicentennial, there were a lot of tourists in town, and they all wanted to see something different," explained "Tiny Tim's" brother, Johnny C. Timpson. "Besides, it was obviously good for business."
"Tiny Tim" appeared on television at least three times and had been interviewed by The Washington Post.%TWhat started as a job that he wanted because he could ease up and be his own boss became an operation that ran from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week. He never wanted to take time off because "he worried about his customers, they were his friends" according to Johnny Timpson and others.
Last August, he returned to New York to enter a hospital. He never had been physically robust, but he told doctors he had to leave the hospital and get back to Washington. He was pleased that his stand had become a well known sight in the city.
"Tiny Tim" returned to his shoe-shine stand for three days in October before he had to quit. By them, his stand was a sturdy permanent structure. A sign said it was cool in summer and warm in winter, but that was just his joke. Mr. Timpson never really closed it. It was still standing, equipped for business, but empty, when he died.
Mr. Timpson is survived by his wife, Elizabeth, of the home in New York City; six sons, Raymond, Leroy, Mark, Vernon and Eric, all of New York City, and Timothy, with the Army in Germany; his brother, Johhny C., of Washington: three sisters, Emily Pleasant, of Chicago, Dorothy Grant and Mary Louise Timpson, both of Anderson, S.C., and five grandchildren.