This week we learned of the passing of Lonnie Bell, the 2002 chair of the Orlando Regional Chamber and the first African American elected to serve that role.
Lonnie was an early leader in the Orlando region’s tech ecosystem as the local executive in charge of a semiconductor facility, laying the foundation for much of our work today to drive investment in NeoCity and our region’s semiconductor manufacturing capabilities. He later dedicated his time to civic duty, leading Orange County’s Office of Community and Family Development.
What many will always remember most about Lonnie was his firm handshake accompanied by a gentle smile. He had the ability to connect with anyone and everyone and make them feel special. Many longtime Partnership (then Chamber) staff members fondly recall how Lonnie would run board meetings over breakfast. Because he rarely had the opportunity to pause and enjoy his meal, he frequently stayed behind to eat with the staff after the meeting. He did that because he wanted to meet everyone and know what they did for the team.
Here are a few words on Lonnie’s legacy from Jacob Stuart, former CEO of Orlando Regional Chamber and Central Florida Partnership.
“Through the years—Lonnie Bell always offered a welcoming smile to everyone he ever met—knowing his warm and wonderful ways will be long remembered. Believing this to be true—the strength of a community is measured by the strength of its civic organizations—and the strength of its civic organizations are indelibly linked to the commitment of its cadre of volunteer leaders. Also believing this to be true—in my many years of civic work—no volunteer leader ever outdistanced the dedication of Lonnie Bell. From his first day as a volunteer at the Orlando Regional Chamber of Commerce—he was an engaged community leader—always working in support of the ‘greater good’—believing today’s civic leaders owe much of their collective success to his early work and faithful service. As a point of history—Lonnie Bell was elected as Chairman of the Board of Directors in 2002, and was the first African American to ever serve in this leadership role—but his impact went well beyond the work of the chamber—understanding he was a devoted father, loving husband and treasured friend—and I will be forever grateful for his many contributions to my life and to the life of my family—as well as to the life of our ‘family of communities.’”
I’m pleased to know we continue to serve the community and honor his memory through our work each day.