A former Cummins executive who was instrumental in overseeing the development of Toyota Industrial Equipment Manufacturing in Columbus is being remembered for his community leadership in Columbus, especially his work in philanthropy.
Randy Johnson “R.J.” Reynolds, 59, of Coatesville suffered a fatal heart attack Friday as he was traveling on business near French Lick, said Benjamin Farris, Orange County deputy coroner.
After graduating from Bedford High School in 1971, Reynolds joined the U.S. Air Force. After he was discharged, the Vietnam War veteran was hired by then-Cummins Engine Co. and earned his bachelor’s degree from Indiana University in 1982.
Reynolds spent 10 years in international marketing and sales for the Columbus-based corporation. But after TIEM announced it would open a $40 million forklift-manufacturing plant near Walesboro in 1989, he was hired by Toyota to become its senior manager of sales and development.
After the 280,000-square-foot facility opened in 1990, TIEM promoted Reynolds to the position of vice president of development. From 1997 to 1999, Reynolds served on the Columbus Economic Development Board.
Reynolds also was active in the United Way of Bartholomew County, where he was on the board of directors and served as chairman of the 1999 Week of Caring.
But former United Way Executive Director Doug Otto said Reynolds’ greatest contribution was the example he set for smaller Bartholomew County employers.
It was Reynolds who established a precedent by making TIEM a major corporate contributor to the annual United Way campaign and convinced similar-sized companies to do the same, Otto said.
Sherry Stark, former Heritage Fund director, recalls Reynolds as being businesslike but approachable.
“He had an easy smile and was courteous and warm,” Stark said. “He was very honorable and always took the work seriously.”
Harold Force of Force Construction has kept close business contacts with Reynolds during the past 23 years.
“He was clear, expressive and worked well in environments that involved Japanese and American relations. That is an art,” Force said.
However, Reynolds’ work often kept him on the road. Besides the plant near Walesboro, he also was instrumental in starting up a joint venture manufacturing facility for Toyota in Los Angeles.
Reynolds and his family left Bartholomew County when he was promoted to assistant general manager of Toyota’s Princeton operation in 2000. A year later, he completed his studies at Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. He was then promoted to vice president of administration and manufacturing planning in 2002.
During the past 10 years, Reynolds served as an executive member of both the Indianapolis-based Japan American Society of Indiana and Evansville Chamber of Commerce. He was also a member of the board of directors for Vincennes University and most recently served on the executive committee of the Interstate 69 Innovation Corridor.
After Reynolds retired from Toyota, he and his wife moved to Coatesville, about 30 miles west of Indianapolis. In early 2011, he was named president and CEO of Radius Indiana, a south-central Indiana economic development partnership.
He is survived by his wife, Suzanne (Hutchison) Reynolds; two sons, Jon and Jeff; and three grandchildren.
His funeral was Tuesday at the Kingsway Christian Church in Avon. Memorial contributions may be made to American Heart Association.