Nashville GLBT Chamber of Commerce to celebrate 10 years of service

Nashville’s GLBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLBTCC) will honor three founding members and past presidents on January 22, 2008, as the organization celebrates its tenth year of service.

The Chamber was founded in 1998 as a professional networking group and was originally called the Nashville Association of Professional Persons (NAPP).

The first-ever awards dinner will be held on Tuesday, January 22, 2008, aboard the Music City Queen. Organizers say the event will become an annual dinner designed to honor local GLBT business leaders.

“The event will recognize the service of our past presidents and among other awards, special honors will be presented to Sam Felker, Maria Salas and Mark Lee Taylor,” explained John Wade, NGLBTCC president. “This will be a special night for the honorees and the chamber. You do not want to miss this event.”

The dinner cruise will board at 2812 Opryland Drive at 6 p.m. for a round trip to downtown. It will dock at 9 p.m.

Seating for the dinner is limited to 100 people, and the event is expected to quickly sell out. Tickets for the dinner are currently available for NGLBTCC members at its Web site – – and are priced at $50 for a single ticket, or $90 per couple. The price includes dinner and the cruise.

“Members should buy tickets early as seating is limited to 100,” Wade said. “Tickets will be available to members only until December 12 and the general public thereafter.”

The menu for the dinner is:

Caesar Salad Topped with Croutons
Chicken Cumberland Plateau
Baked Boneless Breast of Chicken Topped with Tomatoes, Mushrooms, Spring Onions and Monterey Jack Cheese
Roasted Red Bliss Potatoes
Fresh Seasonal Vegetables
Freshly Baked Rolls with Butter
Chocolate Truffle Cake with Berries and Cream Garnish
Coffee, Tea, Decaffeinated Coffee or Milk

The first meeting of NAPP was held at the home of Don Sumner in East Nashville on April 17, 1998. Five people attended the meeting, which was held the day after a tornado had hit Nashville’s downtown area. Those attending had to maneuver the streets through downed power lines and trees. Those attending included the founder, Don Sumner; Wayne Morris; Mark Lee Taylor and Sam Felker.

Sumner, a California native in his early 30s, was pursing a career in financial planning. His idea was to creating a group for business professionals.

Community interest meetings were held until October 1998 (including some at the home of Wayne Morris) when the inaugural dinner meeting was held in the Veranda at the historic Hermitage Hotel in downtown Nashville. More than 60 people attended the event.

NAPP was Tennessee’s first gay and lesbian professional networking group. Group organizers chose the name to be inconspicuous and not draw attention to the fact that it was a gay and lesbian networking group.

“The NAPP name was chosen to be 'vanilla' so we could book meetings without arousing ire from a larger community,” explained Mark Lee Taylor, one of the founding members.

Added another founding member Sam Felker, “It is comical in retrospect that we did not want to use the words 'gay' or 'lesbian' in the name of the group. How things have changed.”

The group grew from 40 charter members, to more than 150 members within the first 18 months. For the first few years in existence, the group met at the Nashville City Club, and in 2003 moved its meetings to the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel, thanks to the help of member Doug Huffines. 

Since its humble beginnings, the group has been instrumental in introducing the GLBT community to candidates running for public office. In addition to those running for office, some notable names have appeared before the NAPP membership including Martha Ingram, Metro Police Chief Ronal Serpas and former Metro Vice Mayor Howard Gentry.

President Christopher Sanders began the initial groundwork in April 2005, to officially move NAPP from a professional networking organization to a formal GLBT chamber of commerce when the board of directors voted to begin marketing the organization as the "Nashville GLBT Chamber of Commerce.”

John Wade continued his work when he took over as president and in January 2007, the board of directors made the transition official, changing the name and adopting a new logo. By mid-year, the board had approved new membership levels for businesses, as well as levels for individuals, keeping in mind the original mission of NAPP to serve as a professional networking organization.

There are two signature community events that NGLBTCC holds each year. The GLBT Life, Business and Career Expo began in 2004 as a way to introduce businesses to the community and allow for face-to-face interaction. The Unpredictable Fashion Show was started in 2006 as a fundraiser for NGLBTCC, and has raised more than $25,000 to date.

Leadership of NAPP and the NGLBTCC

- Don Sumner was the first president and served from 1998 to 2000.
- John Mays was president from 2000-2001
- Sam Felker and Mark Lee Taylor were co-presidents from 2001 to  Dec. 2002
- Van Pond was president Dec. 2002-Dec 2004
- Chris Sanders was president Dec. 2004 to June 2006
- John Wade is the current president, taking office in July 2006

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