Former Chamber President John Walls a True Leader

Although my tenure at the Indiana Chamber started in 1998 (some five-plus years after John Walls had retired as president of the organization), I had the pleasure of getting to know and work with John a few short years later. John had authored an informal history of the Chamber and I was honored to work as his editor as we compiled his research and commentary into a publication that is still used today to inform new board members and others about the association.

John passed away last Friday at the age of 86. I continued to see John and wife Phyllis (65 years together) most years at the Chamber's Annual Awards Dinner. John was particularly passionate about this organization and its important role in the state. Thank you, John, for your leadership and all you did for the Chamber.

The following was shared with Chamber members:

John Walls, the fifth of seven presidents of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce during its 91-year history, passed away May 31 after a brief illness.

John, 86, served as the Chamber’s chief executive from 1977-1992. It was his second stint at the organization as he had been a research assistant from 1950-1952 in his first job after college.

“The Indiana Chamber continued its growth and provided even greater service to its members under John’s leadership,” says current Chamber President Kevin Brinegar. “John enjoyed a distinguished career in public service before coming back to the Chamber and provided excellent counsel following his retirement. He remained passionate about this organization, including authoring an informal history in 2000. I will miss seeing him at our Annual Awards Dinner, which he and wife Phyllis attended regularly.”

Information about John’s career, including his role as senior deputy mayor of Indianapolis for Richard Lugar, is available in his obituary.

Among the many accomplishments during his tenure as president:
• Strategic planning efforts and enhanced involvement of volunteer board leaders
• Increased emphasis on economic development and environmental issues, as well as a renewed focus on education
• Creation of new entities: Indiana Small Business Council, Indiana Legal Foundation and the Chamber’s own Foundation to support the research needed to improve the state’s business climate
• Expanding the Chamber’s service to its members through employee training seminars, regulatory compliance publications and the IndianaNet legislative information system

In the conclusion to his book about the Chamber, Wall writes: “The men and women who have served in either paid or unpaid leadership roles have been primarily responsible for creating and perpetuating this effective organization. The final truth is that there would have been no Indiana Chamber of Commerce without generations of leaders. And the answer to “What of the Future?” is that the Chamber will be there as long as capable leadership exists.”