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Thousands Attend Tommy Dortch Homegoing in Atlanta

Today, Sunday, Feb. 26, Mercedes Benz stadium will honor Atlanta hero Tommy Dortch with a light display worthy of a national hero. On Friday, Feb. 24. the Atlanta Hawks the Atlanta Hawks held a moment of silence for Thomas W. Dorch Jr.

At Dortch’s homegoing service on Saturday, Feb. 25 at New Birth Missionary Chruch in Lithonia, more than 7,000 friends, family, supporters and dignitaries from around the world gathered to share anecdotes, comfort the family and offer well wishes for the local hero who impacted the lives of people around the globe.  That’s just a glimpse at the high regard the Atlanta businessman, advocate, philanthropist and civic leader was regarded with by so many.

Atendees and speakers included, Ambassador Andrew Young, Sen, Sam Nunn, Judge Glenda Hatchet, Dr. George French, president, Clark Atlanta University, and Dr. Bernice King, daughter of the slain civil rights leader, Martin Luther King.

Atlantans from all walks of life are staggered from the loss of beloved entrepreneur and advocate Tommy w. Dortch. Dortch, 72, pass on Wednesday, Feb. 15 after a protracted and valiant battle with cancer.

During his life and career, he was an integral part in building a world class city and establishing a legacy worthy of international recognition. Dortch, who was a standard bearer for development with dignity was also a leading architect of Atlanta and the South’s rise on the national stage.

Mayor Andre Dickens expressed his sadness over the loss of Dortch in this statement:

And Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens wrote, “This is a sad day for our city. We have lost another soldier. Tommy Dortch wasn’t born in Atlanta. He came here to attend school, and never left. And Atlanta is the better for it. Whether during his days in government or during his tenure leading 100 Black Men of Atlanta and later 100 Black Men of America, Tommy never lost sight of his mission. Long before we called it diversity, equity and inclusion, Tommy was hard at work in that space. In matters of equity, not too much happened here that Tommy wasn’t involved in. Tommy was a connector and a facilitator. He knew how to get the right people together to make something good happen for Atlanta. He was also a tireless advocate for our young people. When we decided that 2023 would be Atlanta’s Year of the Youth, I knew that I could count on him sharing his support and wisdom. Tommy once said that he wanted his legacy to be that he put our young people first. Without question, mission accomplished.”

The Atlanta City Council issued the following statement after the passing of Thomas Dortch Jr.:

“It was clear Thomas Dortch Jr. loved his community, which is why he worked so hard for it. He was a trailblazer, a community advocate, and a renowned speaker with a sharp intellect and a public servant’s heart. As we reflect on his life, we extend our most heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. The city of Atlanta will miss his inspiring example, but his life and his service to the community will always be celebrated and remembered.”


But Dortch’s influence and impact extend beyond Atlanta’s city limits and the Georgia state line.

Longtime friend, businessman Dr. William Pickard said in a statement while annoucing a recent $2.5 million dollar gift to Clark Atlanta University:

Friend. Brother.Visionary. While a youth in Toccoa, Georgia, Tommy saw what happens when a community supports its black youth and committed his life to uplifting HIS community. His love for African-Americans transcended economic, academic, social and political boundaries.
Tommy became active in politics because policy made a difference. He reached up to those who wielded power, Julian Bond and John Lewis to personally address and uplift HIS community. While others were figuring out the meaning of the words Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Tommy was behind the scenes putting them to work. He was the strategic facilitator and connector for his community that needed more than what he could do alone.

He never tired of putting targeted effort into representing the interests of small businesses, minorities, and marginalized individuals. He walked into the front doors of some organizations and created others. In both instances, he implemented change for the better with his only intention to be effective and serve.
He founded the National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame and was their longest serving president. Tommy made sure adults were recognized for their accomplishments, showing Black youth what they could be when they followed what they saw. He served as Atlanta chairman and was the longest serving Chairman of 100 Black Men of America. His efforts resulted in over $1 million in scholarships assuring students who need it most a quality education.

His passion for his mission let him pull the right people together to always make something good happen for Atlanta. His legacy was fueled by faith in strong friendship and putting black youth first.

In honor of his efforts, Clark Atlanta University, one of many HBCUs he tirelessly supported, has honored him with the Pickard–Dortch Living Center allowing students to live in comfort during their academic journey. The Thomas W. Dortch Business School Scholarship permits students to do what Tommy did best. Learn in the classroom and from each other. Earn their independent living. Return to their communities to give their best.

His absence leaves a void. His friendship fills my heart. His words I will always hear as I continue the legacy of my friend and brother – as I continue teaching others to Learn. Earn. Return.

Informed people used to call men like Dortch power brokers – now they are called influencers – but both term falls far short of describing the vastness of his commitment to community and improving life for Atlantans, African Americans and all citizens.

Early in his career as a burgeoning leader in the business community, back when Atlanta was becoming the Mecca for Black people, the natural and affable humanitarian helped usher in an era of remarkable growth and helped guide the course of Atlanta’s explosion onto the national – and ultimately international stage.

Born April 12, 1950 in Toccoa, Georgia, Dortch attended Fort Valley State University where he earned a B.A. in sociology in 1972, which is also the year he became a bona fide activist and immersed himself in the fight for disenfranchised people throughout the state of Georgia.

“Tommy had that thing … He was a class act, unparalleled in so many ways. He was next level, before the term became a popular colloquialism,” said native Atlanta and businessman Alonzo Edward.

In 1994, after more than 16 years of government service, first as the associate director of the Georgia Democratic Party and later as the first African American State Director of the GDC, Dortch left his prestigious position to pursue his own business interests. He became CEO of the consulting firm TWD, Inc. and Atlanta Transportation Systems, Inc., a Fulton County paratransit company.

Dortch worked tirelessly to represent the interests of small businesses, minorities, and other marginalized individuals.

The really great people are extraordinarily good people.

Dortch, a tall and strikingly handsome humanitarian, generously shared his time, experience and expertise at any and every encounter. He didn’t miss or shy from an opportunity to actively, openly and earnestly engage in and support the causes that most mattered to Atlantans and Black people throughout the city and the country.

And the reason Tommy Dortch was so well versed on the issues and so intricately involved is because he listened to the people to better understand their needs and provided them with ample access to people and resources.

Dortch worked tirelessly to represent the interests of small businesses, minorities, and other marginalized individuals.

The remarkably and authentically good guy was frequently in the trenches fighting to bring the dream to fruition, people to prosperity and the possibilities to reality.

Sen. Raphael Warnock tweeted, “Deeply saddened to hear my friend Thomas “Tommy” Dortch, Jr. of 100 Black Men of America has passed away. He was a trailblazer whose decades of leadership in the community moved Georgia forward and paved the way for so many who have come behind him. Praying for his family & many friends.”

Thomas Dortch has won numerous awards highlighting his achievements, including a Presidential Citation for volunteerism, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Distinguished Service Award, and the Concerned Black Clergy’s Salute to Black Fathers Leadership Award. Dortch has four children.
Dortch’s passing is an enormous loss.

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©2019 Atlanta Tribune: The Magazine

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