The First African American Bank President

Maggie (Draper) Walker was born to a mother who was a former slave and to a biological father who was a Confederate soldier.  When Maggie was 14 years old, she joined the Independent Order of St. Luke (IOSL), an African-American benefit society.  IOSL supported African-Americans in times of need.  This became a transformational experience for her.

Maggie graduated from college with the intent of becoming a teacher.  But when she married, she had to give up her job because married women were not allowed to teach.  Like many hidden heroes, Maggie turned this setback into an opportunity.  She became very involved in IOSL and eventually became its leader.

IOSL was nearly bankrupt when Maggie assumed her leadership role.  It only had 1,080 members.  Maggie would eventually grow IOSL to over 100,000 members.  Maggie used the IOSL organization to form the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank, a newspaper, and a department store.  Maggie was the first African-American woman to charter a bank.  She used all of these entrepreneurial ventures to advance African-Americans.  Her workforce was primarily African-Americans, and this led her to support educational opportunities where none existed before.

Maggie was a disciplinarian and insisted on strict attendance and work performance practices.  These included dress standards and personal life disciplines.  Her employees worked long hours.  Her approach proved a success as the U.S. went through the Great Depression.

Maggie was a diabetic and confined to a wheelchair in her later years.  She eventually died of diabetes but remained active until her last days.

Hidden heroes have a vision that often leads to success for others.  They are also role models in their personal life, and their high standards influence the lives and standards of others.  They are not afraid to expect a lot from those they work with.  They can be intrusive but do so to raise the lives of others.

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“Let us put our money together.  Let us have a bank that will take the nickels and turn them into dollars.”  – Maggie  Walker

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