John F. Bell Sr. Vanguard Award

About the Award

The Chamber Business Diversity Council (CBDC) established the John F. Bell Sr. Vanguard Award in 2015 to recognize an outstanding business person or individual who promotes diversityjfbell3 within the business community in our Greater Charlottesville area.

2017 John F. Bell Sr. Vanguard Award Recipients- Eugene & Lorraine Williams

The CBDC Vanguard Award is named in honor of John F. Bell Sr., a strong, determined and respected business leader and citizen who established successful businesses during a time when society wasn’t so welcoming to people of his cultural background. The Bell family understood the importance of entrepreneurship. Mr. Bell not only taught his children about business, but he also employed many within the African American community and taught and mentored them as well. The funeral home he founded in 1917, J.F. Bell Funeral Home, is the area’s oldest existing business owned by people of color. His granddaughter, Deborah Bell Burks, and her husband  Lieutenant Colonel Martin Burks, III (US Army, retired), now run the business. The Burks continue Mr. Bell’s legacy of being successful business leaders and active citizens making significant contributions to their community in many ways.

Why Business Diversity?

It’s the right thing to do. A strong diverse business community is a strong community. Minority groups represent a large and growing population in markets across the United States. They’re also becoming the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs. This presents tremendous opportunities for businesses to gain a diverse work population as well as attract new business clients where buying power and investment needs will rapidly increase. That said, it’s a win-win all around.

Nomination Form

  • Vanguard (n): the leaders of an action or movement in society; the forefront in any movement, or the like.
  • The recipient of the Chamber Business Diversity Council John F. Bell Senior Vanguard Award is a person, business, or organization: • displaying high business and personal integrity • located in the Greater Charlottesville area • making significant contributions in the area of business diversity • that understands the importance of service to the the community and is civically-engaged; and, • that mentors others to develop business leaders who will contribute to diversity in business.



The purpose of the Chamber Business Diversity Council is to grow and support minority business enterprises by facilitating the startup of new businesses and the successful running of existing businesses. A Minority Business Enterprise is a business that is at least 51% owned by one or more minority individuals (African American, Asian American, Hispanic American, Native American) who are United States citizens or legal resident aliens.

Our Mission

The Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce is dedicated to representing private enterprise, promoting business, and enhancing the quality of life in our Greater Charlottesville communities.