Thornton, Caldwell to keynote John Robert Lewis Leadership Conference at Troy University

The conference, now in its 20th year, was renamed to honor the legacy of the late Congressman John Robert Lewis following his death in 2020.

The conference, now in its 20th year, was renamed to honor the legacy of the late Congressman John Robert Lewis following his death in 2020.

Birmingham businessman, author and artist Larry D. Thornton, Sr. and Rev. Darryl Caldwell, Pastor of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Banks, will be the keynote speakers for the John Robert Lewis Leadership Conference Feb. 3-4 at Troy University.

Presented by the University and the City of Troy, the conference, now in its 20th year, seeks to bring individuals together to promote dialogue that fosters multicultural collaboration to strengthen relationships and empower diverse leaders with the tools to better serve their organizations and communities.

Launched through the University’s Leadership Institute in 2002 as the vision of the late Lamar P. Higgins, Troy University Trustee and alumnus, the leadership conference was renamed to honor the memory of Lewis, a Troy native, in 2020.

Adult registration is $30, while student registration is $15. Registration is available online at

“In our nation and world, leadership is needed today more than ever before,” said Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr., Chancellor. “Developing servant leaders who are equipped to lead change is at the very heart of our mission at Troy University. We are pleased to once again partner with the City of Troy to honor the legacy of leadership of the late Congressman and Troy native through the John Robert Lewis Leadership Conference.”

Troy Mayor Jason Reeves said the city is proud to partner with the University to help influence future leaders.

“The John R Lewis leadership conference is always one of the best collaborations that the City of Troy and Troy University are able to provide the community and region,” Reeves said. “The City is proud to work to influence future leaders and encourage partnerships, networking opportunities, and education for the improvement of our future.”

Larry D. Thornton, Sr.

Thornton, who will deliver the keynote address during the conference’s opening session at 6:30 p.m. on Friday in the Trojan Center Theatre, is the president and founder of Thornton Enterprises in Birmingham. Created in 1992, Thornton Enterprises is a McDonald’s restaurant franchisee that owns and operates seven restaurants in the Birmingham metropolitan statistical area, generating over $17 million in annual revenue and employing over 200 individuals.

Prior to his current role, Thornton served as advertising manager for Coca-Cola Bottling Company United until 2003 and also previously served as an art teacher at Vestavia Hills High School.

Thornton is a member of the boards of directors of the Birmingham Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Coca-Cola Bottling Company United Inc., Synovus Bank of Birmingham, the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind, and the Freshwater Land Trust. He is the former president of the Kiwanis Club of Birmingham and former board chair of the United Negro College Fund, Alabama State University, the A.G. Gaston Boys & Girls Club, and the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham. He is also a member of the Society of International Business Fellows.

In 2019, Thornton released his first book, “Why Not Win? A Reflection on His 50-Year Journey from the Segregated South to America’s Boardrooms – and What It Teaches Us All.”

Rev. Darryl Caldwell

Rev. Caldwell, who will serve as the luncheon speaker on Saturday at 11:45 a.m. in the Lamar P. Higgins Ballroom on the second floor of the Trojan Center, became pastor of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Banks in 2013. His greatest emphasis is on the need for spiritual growth and development through the teaching of God’s word.

Under his leadership, AMBC has seen a dramatic increase in attendance at worship services, Bible studies and Sunday School. There has been a new addition to the church building, and the Sunday School curriculum has been expanded to accommodate the participation of more age groups. In addition, a tutorial program has been established to aid young people in reaching their fullest potential.

In addition to the two keynote addresses, participants can take part in a variety of plenary sessions on Saturday morning. Plenary session speakers include: Dr. Elizabeth Dawson, a local pediatrician; Angelene Kendall-Henderson, a TROY alumna who is a licensed therapist in Alabama, currently working with incarcerated men in state facilities; and, Dr. Frankie Bell, a TROY alumna and education administrator who is the author of “Choose to Win,” “Leaders-Shift,” and “The B.E.L.L. Factor.”

Additional information about the conference is available by contacting Barbara Patterson at 334-670-3204 or by email at, or Shelia Jackson at 334-670-2283 or by email to