Harvey Lindsay Jr., Norfolk real estate icon, dies at 93
Lindsay's legacy includes civil rights work, Hampton Roads development
Harvey L. Lindsay Jr., chairman and former president of Harvey Lindsay Commercial Real Estate, died Wednesday at the age of 93, the Norfolk firm announced Thursday. In addition to his nearly 70-year career in real estate, Lindsay was a Korean War veteran and an active volunteer in Hampton Roads civic organizations, as well as an early civil rights activist.
“Harvey was an eternal optimist and a true servant leader who believed in empowering individuals to take care of their neighbors,” said Robert M. King, one of Lindsay’s sons and current president of the real estate firm, which was started by Harvey Lindsay Sr. “Throughout his career, my dad believed that what was good for people was good for business. His solid unyielding values are embedded in the culture of our company. All of us at Harvey Lindsay Commercial Real Estate are committed to honoring his legacy of leadership and community service in the Hampton Roads region.”
Lindsay, who served on the Korean War’s front lines as a Marine lieutenant and graduated from the University of Virginia, joined his father’s company in 1954 and became president of the firm in 1969. He continued as chairman up to his death and, according to his grandson Bobby Beasley III, was still a regular presence in the firm’s office up through last week.
“He treated everybody like family,” Beasley said Thursday. “He taught me how to always have an interest in someone’s life. He loved this city, and the city was very good to him.”
Over his career, Lindsay was part of many major real estate developments in Hampton Roads and the Peninsula, including Tidewater Community College, Military Circle Mall, City Center at Oyster Point, Dominion Tower and the Village Shops at Kingsmill. He also was closely involved with Old Dominion University, where the commercial real estate program was named for him.
A conversation with a Black soldier during the Korean War prompted Lindsay to take action to support desegregation when he returned home to Virginia, Beasley said, which was a courageous plan in 1950s Virginia. In the foxhole, the soldier had said that even though he was on the front lines of a U.S. military conflict, as a Black man, he wasn’t treated the same as white people at home. Lindsay took the story to heart, and he chaired a racially mixed citizens advisory committee that pushed to reopen Norfolk public schools, which had closed down instead of integrating. Lindsay later helped found the Urban Coalition, a precursor to the Urban League of Hampton Roads, and served as its president.
“At a time when taking a bold stance on race relations in Southern Virginia was risky, Mr. Lindsay stood for what was right, demonstrating uncommon courage,” Gilbert Bland, president and CEO of the Urban League of Hampton Roads, said in a statement. “He continued to be an ally throughout his whole life in support of the Urban League and our mission, as well as support of other like-minded organizations. And he was a personal friend. Hampton Roads is a stronger, more inclusive community because of his efforts.”
Beasley, the son of Lindsay’s daughter Franny Beasley and vice president of industrial sales and leasing at the firm, says his grandfather preferred to steer attention away from himself and often gave to others anonymously. “He always wanted to help people.”
One of his grandfather’s joys was attending his children’s and grandchildren’s sporting events. “He’d come out in a suit and tie and stand on the sidelines and root us on,” Beasley said. Another pleasure was having a hot dog with mustard and relish, and a vanilla milkshake from Doumar’s, his grandson remembered. Often, the two would eat their meal together at the office, and Lindsay would tell Beasley stories about the war, the civil rights era and the legacy of his own father, whom he called “a great real estate man [who] did a lot of great things” in a 2021 interview with Virginia Business.
Lindsay also served as president of the Norfolk Community Concert Association, director of the U.S. Naval Base Little League, director of the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce and a board member of the Access College Foundation, as well as raising money for local chapters of the Boys & Girls Club and the United Way, and the Union Mission Ministries’ $30 million campus in Norfolk. In 2018, he was given the Darden Award by the Civic Leadership Institute in Norfolk, and was named First Citizen of Hampton Roads by LEAD Hampton Roads in 2014.
Lindsay had five children, including Bob and Billy King, the sons of Robert M. King Jr., a naval pilot who died in a training flight accident in 1954. Lindsay adopted the brothers when he married King’s widow, Frances, and had three more children. Frances Lindsay died in 2018 at the age of 88, and Harvey Lindsay is survived by his five children, several grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and other family and friends. A celebration of his life will be announced later, Beasley said.