Maggie Lena Walker: trailblazer, entrepreneur, innovator.
On Saturday, July 15th, the local government in Richmond, VA, will celebrate Maggie Lena Walker’s 153rd Birthday by unveiling a statue honoring her story, legacy, and commitment to providing financial services to her community.
As a teacher, philanthropist, and community banker, Walker’s mission-driven approach to empowering her community was a model ahead of its time.
Perhaps best known as the first African American woman to charter a bank, Walker’s commitment to her community started in her teenage years when she joined the Independent Order of St. Luke. Primarily a burial society, Walker took over the struggling organization in 1899 and led it to financial solvency. But her contributions were not limited to the company’s finances. She also expanded the organization’s mission to include the promotion of humanitarian causes and individual self-help while growing membership to approximately 100,000 adult and youth members in 24 states.
An eloquent speaker with a knack for public relations, Walker channeled her entrepreneurial spirit into starting a weekly newspaper, The St. Luke Herald, to communicate the Independent Order of St. Luke’s message to the general public. It was following this experience in communicating to the public that she began to focus on the financial needs of the larger community.
In 1903, she chartered and became the first president of the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank. After the bank merged to create The Consolidated Bank and Trust Company, she remained as chair of the Board of Directors, setting a strong foundation for the bank, which would endure until 2009 as the oldest continually African American-operated bank in the United States.
Walker’s contribution to her community and her focus on mission-driven banking remains an inspiration to community development organizations like Southern. For her trailblazing entrepreneurial spirit and business acumen, Southern recognizes the impact that just one person can have on building communities and changing lives.
For more information about her life and career, please visit the Maggie L Walker National Park Service Web page.
For the statue and plaza unveiling information, please see the Richmond Times-Dispatch article.
About Southern Bancorp:
Southern Bancorp, Inc., a bank holding company; Southern Bancorp Community Partners, a 501(c)(3) development finance and lending organization; and Southern Bancorp Bank, one of America’s largest rural development banks; were founded in 1986 by then Governor Bill Clinton, former Walmart Chair Rob Walton, the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation and others who were concerned about the economic decline of rural Arkansas. All three entities are U.S. Treasury certified Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) collectively known as “Southern.” With $1.2 billion in assets, 80,000 customers and 44 locations in Arkansas and Mississippi, Southern invests in people and businesses in rural communities; empowers them to improve their lives; and helps them transform their communities. Learn more about Southern on the web at www.banksouthern.com and www.southernpartners.org.