NASHVILLE, Tenn (WTVF) — For Darrell S. Freeman Sr., the sky was the limit.
He helped people pay for college, mentored young entrepreneurs, and volunteered to help those less fortunate.
The self-made millionaire died Tuesday at the age of 57. In a statement, his family said he succumbed to a serious illness.
Freeman was the first in his family to graduate college and believed education could open any door. He also served as the former board chair for the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce.
"He was a leadership presence. When you were with Darrell you knew things were going to happen and you bought in," said Nashville Chamber CEO Ralph Schulz.
Schulz said Freeman's legacy will help make Nashville a better place for years to come.
"Darrell was a lion of a leader. He was persistent. He was passionate and people followed him because of it. And the payoff is going to be for this community in generations to come," Schulz said.
Freeman dedicated his life to helping others like him overcome obstacles. He donated thousands of dollars to help people enroll in college and help Black entrepreneurs build successful businesses.
"As a private citizen, as an entrepreneur as a businessman this is where I want to make a difference," Freeman told NewsChannel 5 last year.
Among those he mentored, were the owners of Slim and Husky's Pizza. In a statement, they said, "the wisdom, exposure, knowledge, and resources that Darrell shared with us are immeasurable."
The list of people inspired by Freeman is long and includes Mayor John Cooper. In a statement, he said Freeman's service to his community will continue to be a shining example for us all.
Statement from Mayor Cooper on the passing of Darrell Freeman Sr. pic.twitter.com/NBcweB0QTL— Mayor John Cooper (@JohnCooper4Nash) June 29, 2022
His alma mater, Middle Tennessee State University, called Freeman one of its brightest stars.
His energy and devotion to help disadvantaged and underserved students find a path forward, in education and business, was front and center in his work as the first vice chair of our Board of Trustees, as well as his two terms as chair of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce.— MTSU News (@MTSUNews) June 29, 2022
Those who knew and loved Freeman said it's a goodbye difficult to make.
"Darrell was such a unique person, uniquely capable and uniquely driven. That he's just a prominent presence in the lives of everyone who knew him. So when you realize that Darrell's no longer with us any more you immediately miss Darrell's presence," Schulz said.