The Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance held its annual Business Hall of Fame Gala at The Virginian Hotel on Friday, honoring two new inductees.
Megan Lucas, CEO of the Alliance, said these candidates have made a significant impact on the region’s business, industry and community, either through their continued excellence or through a specific and important achievement.
“The Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance strategically chose our organization’s slogan, ‘Where Creativity and Commerce Connect,’ to consciously emphasize how powerful things can be when the two things come together,” she said. “To that end, tonight’s recognition combines creativity with the contributions of the initiates to the trade.”
Luke Towles, chairman of the Alliance, said this year’s nominees have spent their lives not only building their businesses, but building their communities.
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“I hope their stories will inspire others in this room,” he said.
Allianz COO Christine Kennedy said criteria include being a professional from companies large and small who have made outstanding contributions to free enterprise. The person can be the founder or someone who made a significant contribution to the development of the company and can be active, retired or deceased. Civic and/or philanthropic activities are relevant but not the primary factor in selection. The volunteer selection committee is looking for individuals who represent ethnic diversity and have demonstrated exceptional leadership in the business community in their community.
The honorees may or may not currently hold the position in which they have achieved great success and for which they are being honored. Nominees must have resided in the Lynchburg metropolitan area during their contribution to the community, but are not required to be currently resident.
That year, Allianz honored local attorney Arelia Langhorne and the late NB Handy founder, Nathan Handy.
Langhorne is a retired attorney who practiced law for 36 years, during which time she also served many organizations in the Lynchburg community. She is a graduate of Valparaiso University and attended the University of Virginia School of Law. Her legal career began as an attorney in Babcock & Wilcox’s Naval Nuclear Fuel Division, where she negotiated government contracts to manufacture fuel for the Navy’s aircraft carriers and submarines and provided legal advice on regulatory compliance.
Her law firm was founded in 1985 to serve ordinary people, small businesses, churches and non-profit groups. Langhorne served on the Virginia State Bar Committee to review and rewrite the Code of Professional Responsibility. She has served as an Associate Justice of the General District Court and the Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court. Her community service began as a member of the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA and continued with her involvement in the Lynchburg Chapter of Jack & Jill of America, STEP with Links, the League of Women Voters of Lynchburg, cont. She was also awarded the Lynchburg Mayor’s Service Award.
John Falcone, a friend and colleague of Langhorne’s, said she was a trailblazer, opening doors for both women and members of the black community in her career.
“I attribute a large part of her success not only to her intelligence and determination, but also to the exceptional personal style with which she conducted her business,” Falcone said. “She was an attorney who was passionate about her clients. But she carried out her advocacy without needlessly insulting or demonizing her opponents. She conducted it with grace and dignity, which is very different from what we often see in business and politics today. Her mansion was genteel and understated, yet firm and effective.”
Handy began his career as an employee at ED Bell & Co., a subsidiary of Jones Watts Hardware Co., and was associated with WP Clark Hardware.
Handy also worked with Virginia Nail and Iron Works and helped publish The Lynchburg Progress, which was picked up by The News and The Daily Advance. Handy started and became President of NB Handy Co. on April 1, 1891, specializing in steel roofing, copper, solder and supplies delivered to customers by horse and cart.
After 38 years, Handy built 65 10th Street in Lynchburg to house the company. After the post-WWII boom, the company expanded into heating and air conditioning services. He later retired and NB Handy was reported to his grandson, James Christian Jr. The company passed into the fourth generation of family ownership.
Today, NB Handy has grown to 16 locations from Maryland to Florida and has grown into a leading distributor of metals, HVAC, commercial roofing and machinery products.
NB Handy CFO Tom Mills inducted Handy into the Hall of Fame and said he was one of thousands of employees who have benefited from the company’s 131 years.
“I was really impressed that I was so happy to be part of this organization and to experience this melting pot of opportunity and business and to be a part of the community strength that NB Handy has,” he said.
Bruce Christian, Handy’s great-grandson, said that all NB Handy employees are considered family.
“There are some of us who are related by blood to NB Handy, but I take that back in terms of all the people who are in this organization and have worked at NB Handy and are legacies of his vision,” he said.