Editor’s note: As part of the 40th anniversary of McKnight’s, McKnight’s Senior Living and McKnight’s Long-Term Care News have been recognizing 40 notable newsmakers. Each week, the brands have highlighted a new, high-profile leader from the past four decades. This is the final installment in the series. The entire collection of newsmaker profiles can be found here.

One might think that an organization with thousands of members and many varied ideologies might require a leader who manages with a stern voice and an iron fist.

In the case of LeadingAge, the organization of nonprofit aging services providers chose to go in another direction at the turn of the century, and it couldn’t have been happier. 

Instead of hiring someone who enjoyed a bully pulpit and a booming voice, the group chose a Southern gentleman who actually trained for the religious pulpit and dispensed folksy stories that brought far more grins and adherence than any tedious boardroom bureaucracy ever would do.

This is the way of Larry Minnix, who came on in 2001 as president and CEO of the organization that then called the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging. The Georgia native retired in 2015 with the full gratitude of a group that then named after him the long-term care leadership academy he founded.

Minnix continually implored nursing home and assisted living providers to tell “their stories” to anyone who would listen, a mantra that has since been adopted by other senior living and care organizations. He typically told the best tales of all, often regaling groups with stories of his Cousin Bubba and other colorful relatives, many of whom are prominent players in his candid 2018 self-published book, “Hallowed Ground: Stories of Successful Aging.”

Anyone who deems Minnix a naive yokel, however, is gravely mistaken. During his tenure, he pursued numerous new initiatives, including establishing the Center for Aging Services Technologies, or CAST. And although the effort ultimately was unsuccessful, he led a years-long charge to have Congress enact the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act, or CLASS Act, which called for a new public insurance fund for long-term care.

A leader for 28 years at Wesley Woods near Atlanta, the last decade of that time as its executive director, he also coined the now-popular motivational phrase, “In the future, there will be two kinds of nursing homes: The excellent and the out-of-business.” 

“Whether pushing for reforming the way we pay for long-term care or strengthening leaders and leadership in our field, Larry never hesitated to challenge the status quo and develop creative solutions,” observed Katie Smith Sloan, both the top executive Minnix hired to assist him and the one who succeeded him as president and CEO. “He did this with humor, compassion and an unwavering commitment to allowing older adults to live their best lives, wherever they called home.”

Minnix continues to consult on operational and strategic matters and remains a much sought-after speaker and writer on aging issues. A career of more than four decades in long-term care extends even further.