In business since 1904, Citizens Bank is the oldest continuously operated African American bank in the United States. In 1902 Richard H. Boyd, James C. Napier, and other Nashville African American leaders formed a chapter of the National Negro Business League (NNBL) to promote black business interests. African Americans in Nashville had had no bank since the collapse of the Freedmen's Savings Bank and Trust Company (1865-74), and white banks treated black customers with indifference and disdain. On November 5, 1903, nine executive committee members of the local NNBL met at attorney James C. Napier's office and agreed to establish a bank. A week later, seven others joined, and they founded the One Cent Savings Bank and Trust Company with sixteen hundred dollars in capital. The One Cent Savings Bank opened on January 16, 1904, in the Napier Court Building at 411 North Cherry Street.
The principal founders and officers included such important Nashville leaders as Richard Henry Boyd (president), James C. Napier (cashier-manager), and Preston Taylor (chairman). C. N. Langston (teller), J. B. Bosley, William Haynes, J. W. Grant, E. B. Jefferson, T. G. Ewing, and J. A. Cullom were other key officers and founders. The One Cent Bank helped finance the African American civil rights cause in 1906 when it served as the depository for the Defense Fund of the Afro American Council.
Organized for the uplift of African Americans, Citizens Bank survived the Great Depression because Boyd and his successor operated the institution with efficiency and frugality. According to Boyd, bank stockholders understood "that this institution was born out of necessity. It is not . . . a loan company, an investment and industrial insurance company, not a pawn shop, and the idea of 'getting rich quick' was never in the minds of the officers of this institution." (1) In 1920 One Cent Savings Bank's name changed to Citizens Savings Bank and Trust Company to give it a more populist appeal. In February 1922 Citizens Bank moved to the Colored YMCA building on Cedar Street. Seven years later, the Journal of Negro History and the Pittsburgh Courier paid tribute to Citizens Bank's twenty-five years of service. At its 1958 meeting the National Bankers Association awarded an Outstanding Certificate of Achievement to Citizens Bank.
The bank's leadership remained stable after the deaths of Boyd, Napier, and Taylor. Henry A. Boyd served as both president (1922-59) and chairman (1931-59) and was succeeded as chairman by T. B. Boyd Jr. (1959-79) and T. B. Boyd III (1979-present). Since July 1959 Citizens Bank has employed a full-time president, and those to have held the office include Meredith G. Ferguson, Richard Lewis, Henry Hill, Rick Davidson, and current president, Deborah Scott Ensley. Today, Citizens Bank operates a main branch on Jefferson Street, a branch on Monroe Street, and a headquarters and operations building on Heiman Street in Nashville.
Published » December 25, 2009 | Last Updated » January 01, 2010