Knoxville Area Urban League selects Charles F. Lomax Jr. as its new leader

The Knoxville Area Urban League has selected Charles F. Lomax Jr. as its new president and chief executive officer to succeed the retiring Phyllis Y. Nichols, who led the organization for two decades. Lomax, the City of Knoxville’s director of community empowerment, will assume the leadership position on Dec. 12, 2022.

Lomax emerged from a pool of candidates considered during a national search conducted in cooperation with the National Urban League. He has served as a city director for nearly three years.

“The board unanimously voted to select Charles as the next generation leader of the Knoxville Area Urban League,” said Jan Brown, board chair of the nonprofit. “It was a clear decision, and we are fortunate to welcome his proven expertise in community leadership, strong vision and passion for equality to the organization.”

Nichols, who announced last June that she would retire in the fall, was the longest-serving CEO of the five leaders in the organization’s 54-year history in Knoxville.

“Charles will lead with enthusiasm and commitment to our mission of equity, civil rights and economic self-reliance for all,” Nichols said. “He has the ability to bring opportunities for further engagement across all of our platforms and programs in order to deepen the work and impact of the Knoxville Area Urban League in our community.”

As Knoxville’s director of community empowerment, Lomax serves as a liaison between community organizations and the city, addressing concerns and collaborating for meaningful change and a more equitable place to live and work. He helped establish the city’s Empower Knox initiative, an effort to improve the lives of at-risk youth and young adults and empower the organizations that serve them. He also has been the pastor at St. John Missionary Baptist Church in Alcoa for more than a decade.

“It is an honor to be entrusted with the great responsibility of leading the Knoxville Area Urban League and furthering its mission of empowering the underserved,” Lomax said. “Our community deserves economic self-reliance, access to education, social and racial justice and to know that all residents are secure in their civil rights. I am grateful to be part of the organization’s work to achieve those goals.”

Mayor Indya Kincannon said, “Charles has been an integral part of my team since day one, and he will be missed. The good news is he will be continuing to use his experience and skill set to benefit the people of Knoxville through the Urban League. The Knoxville Area Urban League is a great partner of our city, and I look forward to working together on projects in the future.”

Lomax holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology and political science from The University of Tennessee; Master of Divinity in homiletics from Morehouse School of Religion at the Interdenominational Theological Center; and doctorate in divinity and ministry from Emory University.

Nichols will conclude a nearly 30-year career with the Knoxville Area Urban League. She joined the organization as a curriculum and education specialist in 1994 after years in public education and business and then became CEO in 2000.

About the Knoxville Area Urban League
Since 1968, the Knoxville Area Urban League has assisted disadvantaged people attain social and economic stability and self-sufficiency through direct services and advocacy. The League works to provide a skilled and diverse workforce; to increase homeownership; to support economic and small business development, and to enhance education efforts for our youth. The Knoxville Area Urban League is a United Way partner agency and affiliate of the National Urban League. The League’s work and results are evident in the lives of the over 8,000 people it impacts each year. For more information, call 865-524-5511 or visit