By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphians today are mourning the death of one of the city’s leading African-American businessmen, Dr. Walter Lomax.

Lomax, who grew a small medical practice into a much larger company involved in health care, real estate, technology and broadcasting, died this morning at 81, after a brief illness.

Lomax opened a private medical practice in South Philadelphia in the 1950s and quickly became one of the leading African-American doctors in the city.

That was only the start of a hugely successful career in a wide array of fields.  The medical practice itself grew to six locations, then took on the task of providing health care in Philadelphia prisons.

This led Lomax to found Correctional Healthcare Solutions, which provided prison health care in many other cities and states.

With the financial success of that venture, Lomax’s company branched out into real estate and technology firms, and in 2002 purchased radio station WURD-AM.

This year, Lomax became an investor in a one of the firms that is bidding to win Philadelphia’s second casino license (see previous story). “We look at this as a tremendous opportunity for Philadelphia and for the Lomax family,” he said in January.

Among those mourning Lomax’s death today was Philadelphia councilwoman Marian Tasco, who knew Lomax for decades.

“He contributed a lot to the city of Philadelphia and to this country,” Tasco said. “And I’m pretty sure his young people — his kids — will carry on his legacy. And he helped me with a lot of projects in the city. This city has lost an outstanding leader, good citizen, and a great benefactor.”

Tasco was not surprised by Lomax’s successes in many different businesses.

“If you went to him with a good idea, he would look at it, talk to you about it, investigate it, and be supportive of it,” she said. “He was always accessible and open to new ideas, and he was supportive if he thought it was worthwhile.”

Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter, in a statement, praised Lomax for his medical service and philanthropy, saying, “He was an historical figure in Philadelphia and a skilled, compassionate doctor who improved the lives and health of many people.”

US Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.) also issued a statement praising Lomax, who had been the Fattah family doctor.

“He gave so much of his time and talent to our community, but his most cherished responsibility was as a husband, and a father,” Fattah said.

And Council president Darrell Clarke said, “His endeavors in health care, minority business development and philanthropy have paved many a path for younger generations.”

Lomax is survived by his wife, six children, fourteen grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

Late this afternoon the family issued a statement that said in part, “Dr. Lomax is so loved by so many. We ask that everyone celebrate his legacy and remember him fondly for the extraordinary person he was.  Mrs. Lomax and the entire Lomax family appreciate the condolences and outpouring of sympathy from the community.”

Funeral arrangements were pending.

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