A Tribute and Reflection of Leroy Norwood
In the name of Allah (God), the Beneficent, the Merciful. I am humbled to greet you with the greetings of peace and paradise, As Salaam Alaikum (Peace be unto you)!
To the family of our dearly departed Brother Norwood, I offer my deepest condolence on behalf of my family and as Sister President Carrie Edwards-Clemmons stated, “we thank you for your sacrifice”. To the members of the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters (IABPFF), Black Chief Officers Committee (BCOC) and the Dr. Carl Holmes Executive Development Institute (EDI); although there may be sorrow in losing our Brother, “weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning!” From God we come and to God we shall return. May God be pleased with Brother Leroy’s work on earth!
When I reflect on the man I knew as Leroy Norwood (Former Southeast Regional Director and Director of Logistics at EDI), my first thought was that he had the endurance of a foot soldier; the wisdom of a General; and the compassion of a Medic. As I contemplated deeper, my experience of working with him could be summed up in five words, “Love is based on Duty!”
As I remember the story of an important meeting taking place in New York City in the early 1970’s (The foundational years of the IABPFF), Leroy and a colleague of his showed up to attend in a Chattanooga Fire Department vehicle. That was “American Gangster” in a Denzel Washington kind of way. In fact, I recall the first IABPFF President, David J. Floyd saying when he witnessed the car and the enthusiasm of Leroy to have made it there (816 miles), it actually increased the level of importance of organizing Black Professional Firefighters nationwide. During those days, to be a foot soldier meant you also had to be a road warrior. Can I get a witness? Don’t forget, there was no social media at the time. Just dedicated men, supported by faithful women who believed, “Love is based on Duty!”
Then I reflected on the first time I attended a Regional Directors meeting in the late 1990’s. I was the youngest Director at that particular time. I was among IABPFF giants: Leroy Norwood (SER), Bob Anderson (SCR), Richard Logan (SWR), Ed Turner (NCR), just to name a few. I reminisced on me summarizing the meeting based on the notes I took and ‘Roy immediately assigned me the recording secretary of the Regional Directors (smile). He had a gift for “group dynamics” and recognizing the right personnel for the right functions. I know the Logistics Team of EDI know what I’m talking about! He knew “Love is based on Duty!”
Then there was my first Southeast Regional (SER) Conference in Atlanta. I was compelled to attend because the SER was honoring him. I arrived unbeknown to him that I was there. Once he found out, he asked me where I was staying. I had made no arrangements yet because the host hotel was sold out. He said, “stay right here, I’ll be back in 15 minutes.” Norwood, true to his word as he was consistently, came back with a key and told me my roommate was Brother Frank Branch of Norfolk, Virginia. NOTE: Brother Frank attended the funeral as well. I hadn’t seen him since the conference and we now live in the same area.
Brother Norwood, even in his passing, reunited us, and as my son would say, “Got the Band back together!” That’s “Love being based on Duty!”
Again, as the longest running elected Regional Director of the IABPFF, he had the endurance of a foot soldier, the wisdom of a General and the compassion of a Medic. As the EDI Director of Logistics, he had on his team Chief Officers of Departments (Many who have attended his services today) from around the world, yet got them to do the work necessary to operate like a well- oiled machine and showed them another level of humility. With his overalls on, whether he was addressing the IABPFF or the Student Body at EDI, he was a living witness that he wouldn’t ask of you anything that he would not do himself. That respect we all had for him was because his “Love was based on Duty!”
He would also quietly be the voice of reason when it came to conflict resolution. He would definitely firmly speak his mind, but only after to listening attentively to what is being said. He knew relationships matter. He knew the highest level of thought leadership and staying connected was by inspiring each other, following this simple principle: “Love is Based on Duty!”
Lastly, we all know Leroy believed in having a good time after the work is done! Good food, fun, and fellowship were well deserved after completing the assignments. Whether it was the “Plummer Lounge” at Florida A & M, the “Chattanooga Room” at the Regional Conferences or the “Boom-Boom Room” at Dillard, the memories are legendary. I could say what goes on there, stays there. Enough said, “Love is based on Duty!”
In closing, I was in conversation with a friend of mine letting him know of me coming here and paying my respects to the family. He replied, you have to go there? My reply was, I WANTED to come to Chattanooga. I’m glad my wife, Sharon came with me also, so she could experience for herself the warm hospitality here that I’ve always received. I know in part it’s because of the leadership and partnership of Brother Norwood that his nuclear and extended family treat us the way he did. My being present is a bearing of witness to your Father, Grandfather, Husband and friend. To Tommy, Cecil, Freddy, Dave, Randy, and the Brotherhood/Sisterhood United: thank you, thank you, thank you! I just wanted to show an attitude of gratitude for the life of our Brother Leroy Norwood. I just wanted you to know who he was to me and I hope it was comforting to you. A foot soldier (Endurance), a General (Wisdom) and a Medic (Compassion).
As our Brother’s remains lay there in his class A uniform with bling-bling of a Captain’s rank he was proud of what God enabled him to accomplish in what must have seemed at times like insurmountable odds. Allow me to conclude by using my poetic license. “Whether badges, bars, bugles or stars, that is what we’ve been able to achieve, that is not who we are. Even with these few words share by me. I guess it’s still the way it used to be. The strength of an organization is its family and real freedom is, responsibility. The ability to respond legitimately by any means necessary.” Leroy Norwood is “Love is Based on Duty!”
Thank you for listening. Peace be unto you.