Roanoke Alums’ star still shines brightly

Kinsey brothers helped build the Mill Mountain Star, which was designed by their father

One of the area’s favorite landmarks celebrated its 60th anniversary this week. The Mill Mountain Star was lit for the first time on Thanksgiving Eve, 1949, and has become an icon of Roanoke and the inspiration for the city’s moniker of ‘Star City of the South.’ In 1999, the star was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

A trio of Roanoke College alumni were involved in building the popular attraction, which was funded by the Roanoke Merchants Association and the city’s chamber of commerce. Brothers Warren ’36, Roy ’41, and Bob Kinsey ’51 all worked for their father’s business, the Roy C. Kinsey Sign Company, Inc., which contracted to build the star.

Warren passed away nearly two years ago, but Roy and Bob are still living in the Roanoke area and were interviewed by WDBJ-7 and The Roanoke Times about their role in the star’s construction. They said the star was their father’s idea and he designed it.

The brothers and other employees attached 2,000 feet of neon tubing to the 100-foot frame, climbing all over the huge structure without the security of a safety harness.

Roy and Bob express amazement that the star is still around and has become such a beloved part of Roanoke’s identity, but the star’s popularity probably comes as no surprise to anyone who has visited the site and marveled at both the red, white, and blue symbol and the panoramic view of the valley. Next time you visit the star, stand at the overlook and peer off into the northwest. The College isn’t all that far away, and, thanks to the Kinseys, there’s also a little bit of Maroon shining bright above Roanoke.

About the Author

Sharon Nanz ’09 is a freelance writer and an avid Masters swimmer. While at Roanoke, she majored in English and interned in the Office of Public Relations.

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