Professional shoe-shiner Louis Gill Cobb, a fixture in downtown Lexington whose life was the subject of a 2006 documentary, died Wednesday of unknown cause.
The Fayette County coroner's office said Cobb was found unresponsive on Main Street about 11:19 a.m. and was pronounced dead. The coroner's office had no additional information.
Former Vice Mayor Mike Scanlon said Cobb, known by downtown business people and patrons as "Shoeshine," often would come to his office and shine everybody's shoes. On Wednesday shortly before 10 a.m., Cobb was headed to an Applebee's restaurant to shine shoes for veterans on Veterans Day, Scanlon said.
"The guy mattered. He was an important part of the fabric of downtown Lexington," Scanlon said. "Downtown won't be the same without him. But I know he's in a better place now."
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Cobb often attended and spoke out at city council meetings.
"He was a controversial and colorful character whose presence often enlived our meetings," said Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry in a statement. "His family and friends have my condolences."
Downtown developer Phil Holoubek said he was a regular customer of the man with the trademark dreadlocks.
"He would give out VIP cards and said they were for his best customers. He also showed up at city council meetings and sometimes said controversial things. He was a character," Holoubek said.
A 2006 Herald-Leader article said a documentary about Cobb by University of Kentucky graduate Erin Wilson had its premiere at the Kentucky Theatre. Can't Stop the Shine depicted struggles in his life.
Cobb, a Lexington native, reportedly spent most of his childhood in the Charlotte Court area before going to North Carolina for college. He moved to Washington, D.C., after graduation and came into contact with a professional shoe-shiner.
He learned how to succeed in the trade and returned in Lexington in 2002 to begin his business.
With his shoe shines, the article said, Cobb offered some philosophy, therapy and inspiration.