Mr Nelson passed away at the age of 60 following a long-term battle with cancer. He was the Order’s grand secretary from 2004.
“Drew played a key role in the Orange Order in recent years, particularly in seeking to move the organisation forward and recognising the new reality of Northern Ireland society,” said Mr Ford.
“I always had positive engagements with him in his role, both from an Alliance perspective and while Justice Minister. My deepest condolences go out to his family, friends and colleagues on his passing.”