Simms was born in the parsonage of a small AME Zion Church in Anderson but later moved with his family to Indianapolis where he attended several public schools before graduating from Crispus Attucks High School. With little support for his innate artistic talent, Simms took up a trade as one teacher and his parents suggested. But at General Motors (GM) corporate offices in Detroit, where John landed with his tools in 1978, his talents were respected and put to good use. John was asked to paint portraits of several GM executives and completed several portraits commissioned by the International United Auto Workers (UAW). While working for GM in Detroit, John completed his Associate Arts degree Summa Cum Laude in commercial art and photography and obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts with Honors from the Center for Creative Studies College of Art and Design. When Simms retired from General Motors in 1999, he only wanted to paint heirloom portraits and create fine art depicting the positive values that have been with him since his youth. He does so today from his studio on the Cumberland Plateau in Fairfield Glade, TN.
Visual Artists knowingly or unknowingly chronicle their influences; where they’ve been, what they’ve seen. Their joys and hurts are exposed to the viewer for their enjoyment or criticism. This body of work represents my thinking today and yesterday, and my hopes for the future. My portraits and representations of history tell stories. Still Life compositions and landscapes show what I find beautiful. The greater statement I choose to make is: My subjects, the viewers, and myself were here. We have a Legacy.