ARLINGTON, Va. — In a statement released this morning, the Consumer Bankers Association announced that it is seeking a new president.

Why? According to the group: "On Jan. 7 the Consumer Bankers Association lost its leader of more that 21 years. The sudden death of Joe Belew came as a great shock to the CBA staff, and members of the banking industry.

This month the search begins for a new CBA president as we move forward to continue serving and supporting the retail banking industry. Guided by our board of directors, we are confident a strong leader will be found.

However, we know there will only be one Joe Belew.

As one banker summarized, Joe was a great thinker, a great listener, a great educator and a great communicator.

As president, Joe directed all activities of the organization and served as the lead spokesman for bank lenders on consumer-banking issues. 

Known for his understanding of how retail banking affected consumers, Joe had the ability to relate to issues from a consumer as well as from a banker perspective.

An eloquent spokesperson, Joe frequently spoke to national audiences on current financial issues, was interviewed numerous times by the media and testified before Congress on banking issues. He possessed the rare ability to communicate the intricacies of complex banking policy issues in a way that was clear, honest and straightforward.

Joe joined CBA in 1984 as director of government relations, bringing an intricate knowledge of how the legislative process worked, both from on and off Capitol Hill. 

This knowledge made him an invaluable leader in the association's policymaking process. Prior to joining CBA, Joe served as a staff member of the U.S. Congress for 10 years, spending seven of those years as executive assistant to U.S. Rep. Doug Barnard, D-Ga., a leading member of the House Banking Committee. Before that time, Joe worked as a U.S. Senate staffer for three years. He also worked in national and regional political campaigns. 

Beyond his political skills and communications prowess, Joe was well known for his generosity and approachability. In an increasingly impersonal world, he always added a personal touch that came so naturally to him.

What's more, Joe brought a sense of ethics to his challenging job that is rare in Washington.

Not well known was Joe's extensive involvement in improving communities. He made CBA a leader in financial literacy initiatives. He also devoted countless hours to community development projects in Washington and elsewhere, working with business and civic leaders to bring investment that has helped transform previously blighted areas into positive beacons of community life. 

One such endeavor was a long-closed theater in northeast Washington that was transformed into a community education and arts center. 

In 2008 Joe was named vice chairman of the Social Compact, a nonprofit organization of financial service companies and community groups dedicated to expanding community development. He had been a member of the Society of International Business Fellows since 1984. 

In 1990, as part of a program sponsored by People to People International, he led a delegation of American bankers to the then-USSR to exchange information on consumer banking. He also was a member of the Key Industry Advisory Committee of the American Society of Association Executives.

Originally from Clayton, Ga., Joe received a bachelor's degree in public relations and journalism from the University of Georgia. He is survived by his wife, Elaine, and their two children, Anna and Duncan.

The CBA family will dearly miss working with Joe. Our thoughts are with the Belew family during this very difficult time."