Evansville icon Lu Porter was born Lula Beatrice Johnson in Jackson, Mississippi. She was the fourth of 12 siblings born to a minister father, and grew up in the role of pulling people together.
Her decades of work in business and on nonprofit boards around Evansville has earned her the nickname “The Connector,” a moniker she’s proud of.
“I connected the dots and connected people and I still do, it it’s my forte,” she said. “I’m really blessed to be able to bring people together and see the smile on their face.”
Porter graduated from Bosse High school. At her first job, she was hired because she had nice handwriting. She soon added more qualifications to her resume at National City Bank, where she started as a clerk and ended up as the assistant vice president less than 18 years later.
“I’m a people person, and I was entwined with everybody from the basement on up,” she said. “I got all the information from them. It’s who you know and how you treat people, so I got to know each department, and when they needed anything, they came to me.”
During and after her work as a banker, she sat on well over a dozen nonprofit and government boards. One of the most important was at the Evansville African American Museum, where she was the executive director for seven years.
“I said I’d get them the money they needed and then retire, so that’s what I did,” she said. “When new people came to Evansville, I asked them to come be a speaker at the museum and bring people from their organization, so I got new people to come in.”
She was invited to be on the Indiana Housing Community Development board in Indianapolis and fulfilled that function for eight years. She was on the Indiana Tourism Board. She was invited to complete the Leadership Evansville course and afterward wound up the president of the board there, too.
“When you say yes to one board, you can’t say no to the rest,” she said.
To name a few more, Porter sat on the YWCA board; she was the president of the Housing Authority board, in the League of Women Voters, on the Echo Health Care and Echo Housing boards, and has worked with Ivy Tech Community College for 27 years, from where she has received an honorary degree and the 2023 Benefactor of the Year award. The list of her areas of community involvement, awards and honors goes on and on, but Porter has always felt strongest about helping others find the ways to achieve their goals.
“Evansville is for everyone, and if someone thought they couldn’t do something, I got them to understand (how they could),” she said.