Darrell S. Freeman, MTSU Trustee, former Nashville chamber chair, dies at age 57

Published: Jun. 29, 2022 at 2:07 PM CDT
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BRENTWOOD, Tenn. (WSMV) - MTSU Board of Trustees vice chair and former Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce chairman Darrell Freeman has died at age 57, his family announced in a statement on Wednesday.

Many people have responded to Freeman’s death including Michael Carter, his business partner. Carter said he was working when he got a phone call he couldn’t believe.

“I heard the news about my dear business partner passing yesterday,” said Carter.

Freeman is a man Carter has known and loved for more than a decade.

“Our beloved father and husband, suffered from a serious illness that he succumbed to on the evening of June 28, 2022,” the Freeman family said in a statement. “As we navigate this unknown territory and difficult time, we ask for your prayers and privacy.”

Freeman has served on the MTSU Board of Trustees since its creation and is the vice chair.

“Our university community today mourns the passing of alumnus and Trustee Darrell Freeman Sr., who will be remembered for his passion and advocacy for creating opportunities for others, as well as his business acumen and entrepreneurial spirit,” the university said in a statement. “He was one of MTSU’s brightest stars, and his light shined through his many accomplishments: A first-generation college graduate; a trail-blazing businessman who created his own IT company, Zycron, that, over 25 years, became a multimillion-dollar business that he sold.”

Freeman used those resources to help aspiring Black entrepreneurs overcome obstacles and find success in business. As a private pilot, he lent his services and aircraft for international relief missions. He flew supplies on two occasions to the Bahamas with MTSU President Dr. Sidney A. McPhee after hurricanes struck the nation. He also flew COVID-19 tests to an Atlanta lab at the outset of the pandemic.

“His loss is just something that I’m challenged with right now, just trying to understand and also trying to figure out how to move forward,” Carter said. “For those that knew him and loved him, he was just ingratiating in terms of his outreach and his urge to constantly be concerned about people.

“Trustee Freeman’s service to his alma mater – as a role model, donor, volunteer and leader – leaves a legacy that will inspire our students, and our community, for generations,” McPhee said in a statement.

He served two terms as chairman of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce.

“We are saddened by this loss for Darrell’s family and the community. He was a lion of a leader, and his impact will be felt for generations,” Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Ralph Schulz said in a statement. “Darrell was a mentor to many and was passionate about education and the doors it opened for him and could open for others. He embodied Nashville’s entrepreneurial spirit, paying it forward and nurturing the entrepreneurial spirit in others. Our hearts are with his family and all those he inspired.”

“At the chamber, he made education a priority in the early 2000s and drove that passion for decades,” Shultz said.

As a board chair, Shultz said Freeman pushed them to create programs that help minority education and better community outreach systems.

“Darrell was a teacher and Darrell was a partner and Darrell was somebody who is genuinely committed to improving people’s lives,” Schultz said.

Nashville Mayor John Cooper said Freeman’s death “is an enormous loss for our community.”

“Darrell dedicated his life to helping people succeed, and was particularly passionate about lifting up and supporting young entrepreneurs so they wouldn’t face the same obstacles as his generation,” Cooper said in a statement. “I know that his work, his unwavering spirit, and his service to his community will continue to be a shining example for all of us. Nashville will go forward dedicating ourselves to completing what Darrell started in his great honor.”

Dozens of people spent years working and growing with Freeman. All said that they were heartbroken, but they added that they don’t plan on standing still.

“We plan to create and continue to fulfill his passion for helping young people,” Carter said.

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