Editor’s note: As part of the 40th anniversary of McKnight’s, McKnight’s Senior Living and McKnight’s Long-Term Care News are recognizing 40 notable newsmakers. Each week, the brands will highlight a new, high-profile leader from the past four decades. Previously published installments of the series are posted here.

Clifton J. “Clif” Porter II doesn’t mind comparisons to Jackie Robinson, the great baseball pioneer. Porter doesn’t open with such comparisons or bank on them himself, but he’s not going to chase away anyone implying that he’s a highly valued performer doing groundbreaking work that cannot be confined by racial parameters.

Simply put, Porter has delivered a treasure map for how to start low and then knock the socks off the entire long-term care industry via deep study, hard work and effusive relationship building. The one-time nursing home volunteer now traverses the halls of Congress as the second-most influential lobbyist for the most powerful nursing home group in the country, the American Health Care Association, and its sister organization, the National Center for Assisted Living.

A native of the Washington, D.C., area, Porter is an earnest educator, intent listener and compelling story teller. All have served him well on his professional ascendance and command of issues over the past two decades.

It was Virginia Commonwealth nursing school Professor Emeritus Anthon DeLillis who 30 years ago first recommended nursing home administration to Porter, now AHCA/NCAL’s senior vice president of government relations. DeLillis also pointed out the paucity of Black leaders in the field to Porter, whom he labeled a pioneer and its “Jackie Robinson.”

Porter started impressively by improbably thriving at a 34-bed nursing home in Virginia. Taken under wing by HCR ManorCare Senior Executive VP / COO and Director Emeritus Keith Weikel, he eventually rose to regional vice president and then vice president of government relations for the 500-plus facility company.

At AHCA/NCAL for the past eight years, Porter has been hailed for building relationships with key legislators and staffs, while also injecting energy to AHCA/NCAL grassroots networking and advocacy efforts.

On the national scene, for example, he helped steer the nursing home industry from the public relations disaster sprouted from the conversion to RUGs-IV from RUGs-III. He pushed a SNF value-based purchasing system that averted a devastating $2 billion funding cut federal regulators were planning and then later sidetracked efforts to further pin skilled nursing providers into an unwelcome corner.

Name a major legislative issue facing long-term care operators today and Porter is extremely well-versed in it. He knows the key players well and vice versa.

Call it the byproduct of a trailblazer who lives every day by the motto: “You go out there and play.”