MTSU alumni and Board of Trustees Vice Chair Darrell S. Freeman studio and KOM Portraits

Nashville, Tenn. (TN Tribune)–Nashville business leader and philanthropist Darrell Freeman, 57, died Tuesday, according to a statement from his family. Freeman was selected by the Tennessee Tribune as our Man of the Year for 2021.

“Our beloved father and husband suffered from a serious illness that he succumbed to on the evening of June 28, 2022,” the family said. “As we navigate this unknown territory and difficult time, we ask for your prayers and privacy.”

Freeman was a past chairman of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce board and a member of the board of Middle Tennessee State University.

Freeman started his technology services company Zycron Inc. in an incubator and moved it to an office on North Nashville’s Clarksville Pike. His first two hires were Fisk students.

Nashville business leader and philanthropist Darrell Freeman

Zycron is a Nashville entrepreneurial success story. Launched from a one-employee office the size of a closet, the company grew to $38 million in revenues. Zycron provided employees who help large corporate and government clients — such as hospital chain HCA, the Tennessee Valley Authority and Nashville Electric Service — with implementing their information technology plans.

Freeman sold the business in 2017 for more than $20 million. Among recent interests, Freeman was an investor and mentor to the trio who founded restaurant chain Slim & Husky’s Pizza Beeria, which started on Buchanan Street and now has 10 locations in four states.

In 2018, Freeman founded Cockpit Conversations, a series of interviews hosted by Freeman, at an altitude of 25,000+ feet where he believes the sky is not the limit! During the interviews, Freeman and his guests discuss topics such as leadership, entrepreneurship, business principles, community service, goal setting and philanthropy. His goal was to motivate viewers to aim high and inspire them to pursue their dreams with passion and confidence. He wanted viewers to hear messages of hope, inspiration and wisdom from a diverse collection of individuals.

The videos can be viewed on Freeman’s YouTube channel

This year it was announced that Freeman was spearheading a push to open an incubator at Fisk University at the behest of Mayor John Cooper and Metro Council.

“We are saddened by this loss for Darrell’s family and the community. He was a lion of a leader, and his impact will be felt for generations,” said Chamber President and CEO Ralph Schulz. “Darrell was a mentor to many and was passionate about education and the doors it opened for him and could open for others. He embodied Nashville’s entrepreneurial spirit, paying it forward and nurturing the entrepreneurial spirit in others. Our hearts are with his family and all those he inspired.”

Jane Allen, CEO of the Nashville Entrepreneur Center, released a statement mourning Freeman’s death.

“His legacy of generosity, mentorship, inclusion, and education will live on in all those he inspired,” Allen said. “Darrell embodied much of what the EC strives to help others achieve, and he committed his time and resources to help entrepreneurs not just through the EC, but people within and beyond the Nashville community at large. Our hearts are with his family, friends, and the countless entrepreneurs he inspired.”

Main Street Nashville contributed to this story.