Jimmie Fore, director of convention center passed away Sunday

March 23 2011 | Latest News
"He was the icon in the industry for running convention centers,"...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011
By Jaquetta White

Business writer

Jimmie D. Fore, who led the New Orleans convention center for 16 years, died Sunday at his home in Marble Falls, Texas. He was 73.

Mr. Fore served as president and general manager of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center-New Orleans from 1991 to 2007, seeing the center through two major expansions and periods of high growth. In a career that spanned 42 years, Mr. Fore also had been the general manager of the nation's largest convention center, McCormick Place in Chicago, and executive vice president of the Astrodome-Astrohall Stadium Corp. in Houston. From 1971 to 1973, he was executive vice president of the Greater New Orleans Tourist & Convention Commission, or what is now the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau.

"He was the icon in the industry for running convention centers," said Warren Reuther, a veteran in the New Orleans hospitality industry, who as chairman of the convention center board hired Fore in 1991. "He was the guy that everyone wanted to emulate."

Under Mr. Fore's leadership, the riverfront facility routinely ranked in the top 10 in the nation based on the number of national conventions and trade shows hosted. He was also at the helm of two major expansions at the convention center that made it one of the largest in the nation. In 2003, Tradeshow Week named him one of the "Most Influential People in the Tradeshow Business."

"We were very fortunate to have him come to New Orleans and manage our convention center," Reuther said. "Everybody in the industry that dealt with conventions and meetings and sports events respected him as a leader."

Fore, in tandem with Ed McNeill, who headed the visitors bureau, made New Orleans an "in demand" convention destination, Reuther said.

"Throughout his 16 years of service, the convention center enjoyed peak occupancy and attendance growth and underwent an expansion that boosted the center to being the fifth largest convention center in the nation," Bob Johnson, Mr. Fore's successor at the convention center, said. "We are fortunate to have had his leadership over the years and New Orleans will be forever grateful for his service."

Mr. Fore is also credited with keeping the convention center open during and immediately after Hurricane Katrina so that it could house emergency military and medical crews. Mr. Fore also oversaw the building's $60 million renovation and return to use as a convention space six months after Katrina.

"He stayed there the whole time," Reuther said. "Jimmie was responsible for getting it back up, getting it open and maintaining it under those conditions. It was a catalyst that brought New Orleans back."

Mr. Fore stayed on at the convention center for two years after the storm before joining is wife, Darlyne Fore, in Marble Falls in 2007 to become a rancher and pursue his hobby of team roping. Fore had been interested in rodeo since high school, Darlyne Fore said.

The Fores built a home and barn on 47 acres in Marble Falls, about 86 miles north of San Antonio, Mr. Fore's hometown.

"He loved the hill country," Darlyne Fore said, adding that Mr. Fore spent his days caring for the family's quarter horses and dog. "He was our little cowboy."

In addition to his wife, Mr. Fore is survived by two sons, Kristopher Fore of Marble Falls and Darren Fore of New Orleans; two daughters, Robin Darnell of Tomball, Texas, and Melissa Hensarling of Dallas; a brother, Dr. Frank Fore of Tulsa, Okla.; and four grandchildren.

The funeral will be Thursday at 1 p.m. at Edgar Funeral Home, 2105 U.S. 281 North in Marble Falls. Visitation will start at 10 a.m.