Thursday, June 9, 2005

Hispanic Chamber leader Greg Rodriguez dies at 51

Greg RodriguezGreg Rodriguez, Jr., President of the Tennessee Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, died of a heart attack Wednesday, according to the Chamber.

"Nashville lost a great friend on Wednesday evening, a well-known figure, recognized by friends everywhere he went. Greg Rodriguez, 51, born and raised in McAllen, TX, moved here in 1994, has passed away from a heart attack at his home on June 08, 2005 and subsequently passed away at the Summit Hospital, in Hermitage TN."

"Greg founded the Tennessee Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in 1997 and has served as the President of the Chamber ever since. He has been a pioneer in the changing of the local landscape, and his efforts have touched the lives of Nashvillians on all levels."

"He always said that the most important thing for people living here is to have a good life and to simply be happy. Greg will always be known for his sense of humor and as a champion throughout Tennessee for uniting the Hispanic Community. His greatest wish was to bring his community together with a sense of respect and pride, and often asked of all Hispanics in Tennessee to work together and have pride in their community. He was also a strong advocate of more education for the Hispanic Community, and was often quoted as citing it as the most important factor for their future."

The Chamber is collecting thoughts and sentiments for Greg's family and friends at this e-mail address:

Visitation will be held at Phillips-Robinson Funeral Home, 2707 Gallatin Rd, 262-3312 on Friday, June 10 (10am-4pm, 5-8pm) and Saturday, June 11 (8am-12pm). A service will be held Saturday, June 11, 1:00 pm, in the Chapel of the funeral home.

Greg Rodriguez and Governor Phil Bredesen in 2002

The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition cancelled two planned events today in response to the news and issued this statement: "Greg was one of the Nashville Hispanic community's most valued leaders, and one of its most ardent supporters and defenders. He played many important roles in the community, including president of the Tennessee Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. We will greatly miss Greg, and he will remain in our hearts forever. His tremendous presence in the greater Nashville community is now felt as a terrible absence."

Diana Holland, Owner of Hispanic Link Consulting, shared this story: "I was introduced to Greg in November of 2003, and I was offered the opportunity to volunteer to plan the 2004 Latino Awards Gala for the [Tennessee Hispanic] Chamber. I jumped on board and, for five months, worked very closely with Greg toward what ended up being a very successful event with over 450 attendees. We had many challenges along the way, especially as I sit on the Board of the Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and was then their Treasurer. I recall Greg saying to me, 'You have guts woman,' to which I responded: 'Well, now you know it is two of us,' and he responded with his characteristic simultaneous smile and nodding of his head. Greg always advocated for working together, and we discussed from time to time what it entailed to weave communities together. Greg: thanks for having guts and inspiring others to have them too! Hasta siempre!"

Yuri Cunza, President of the Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said, "We join the Hispanic Community in mourning the loss of Greg Rodriguez, founder and president of the Tennessee Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. We will remember his leadership and advocacy for Nashville's Hispanic community." Commenting on the perceived rivalry between Nashville's two Hispanic chambers, Cunza downplayed the groups' differences and noted that Rodriguez's powerful presence fueled interest in Hispanic advocacy not only among the members of his group but also those in other organizations, including the Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Cunza also noted the opportunity for unity among the Hispanic community: "This is the point at which any line that once divided us now becomes very thin; this is a time in which we should be looking at our similarities and what we are truly trying to achieve. All the other things are insignificant at this point."

Reports of Greg's death appeared in the Tennessean, Nashville City Paper, Nashville Post, Nashville Business Journal, and on NewsChannel 5.

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