Most of us have seen countless banking commercials on television, touting the reasons one particular bank is superior to others. But, one Nashville bank holds a title no other business can claim in the entire country.

This story stretches from Nashville to the nation's capital, where an old clock is on exhibit at the Smithsonian Institute. It's the same clock that began keeping time at Nashville's Citizens Savings Bank & Trust nearly 100 years ago, a black-owned bank that started with less money than some people spend on groceries.

Attorney Richard Manson is the bank's chairman of the board.

"They put 100 dollars into that bank and established an institution in 1904 that still exists today. That's quite a feat," Manson said.

The bank, now located at Jefferson Street and 21st Avenue, was started because black people couldn't get loans from white institutions.

"So these individuals decided, you know what... let's stop asking. Let's stop begging. Let's do our own," Manson said.

After more than eleven decades, the oldest continually owned black bank in the nation is still firmly rooted in the past. You'll find pictures of the founding fathers in the bank's lobby, including members of the Boyd family. Manson also showed us several historical ledgers that demonstrate a close bond between the bank and local black churches.

Manson opened one ledger, pointed to the top of one page, and started reading aloud.

"It's interesting, because it involves two churches, Clark Memorial and Mount Airy, both which still exist today, came in for a loan. And Citizens Bank approved the loans for what they needed it for," Manson said.

Bank officials say they are excited about their past, but the real joy comes from helping to build up the community around the bank, and giving ordinary people a chance to do ordinary things.

"Just owning homes. Having savings accounts. Starting from the basics of financial services," said Citizens Bank President and CEO Sergio Ora.

Simply put, the bank enjoys helping people like Jarrett Harper, a student at nearby Meharry Medical College, who walked in and asked a bank teller for assistance.

"It really does swell me up with joy to know that there are churches around here that have been benefiting from this bank. And I had no idea that it had such longevity - 115 years. That's, like, amazing. That's impressive," Harper said.

Other banks have more customers and capital. But a lot of people in the community believe what Citizens Bank Savings & Trust represents now - and in the past is truly priceless.

Copyright 2019 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.


Tom Randles is an award-winning reporter and anchor for News4 since 2006.

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.