The mail server is fixed, though I still have to check NFS mount points of various servers, however, the CAUSE of the issue with mail was not, as I had suspected, the new kernel.
Something has changed the behavior of the system such that the order of data in nsswitch.conf is being ignored, and if there is a conflict in NIS UID verses local password file, the NIS overrules. As it happens, we had a postfix entry in NIS from a gazillion years ago when postfix was running on SPARC servers and that was conflicting with the local password file. The order of data in nsswitch.conf was files then NIS so it should not have, and further it did not show in ls, the output of ls was correct, but postfix interpreted the NIS version.
I booted off the old kernel and it still exhibited the same behavior so it was not caused by the new kernel as I had suspected. Removing the entry from the NIS database, which is no longer legitimately used anyway, resolved the issue so that the server works properly, still the issue remains that nsswitch.conf is being ignored in some contexts and this is not good.