Carver State Bank was established in 1927. We are, by far, the oldest bank headquartered in Savannah. This year, we are celebrating our 90th anniversary, and it has been my honor to serve as president of this institution for 46 of the past 90 years.
Carver has a tremendous heritage. It has been, and still is, a financial services leader and a source of pride for the entire Savannah community, especially those who are affiliated with the institution.
I learned about Carver during the summer of 1969, while working as a summer intern with Citizens and Southern National Bank (C& S Bank) of Atlanta between my 1st and 2nd years of graduate school at the Harvard University Graduate
School of Business Administration.
Carver State Bank is certainly a unique institution. There are approximately 6,500 commercial banks in the United States, but only 21 of these banks are owned by African Americans. The fact that we have not only survived, but thrived, during the past 90 years is certainly a remarkable accomplishment.
Carver is the only bank headquartered in the Savannah area that has an OUTSTANDING Community Reinvestment Act Rating from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. This OUTSTANDING Rating is confirmation that we are providing valuable services to all sectors of our community. We are the only bank in Chatham County headquartered in one of the five (5) low- income census tracts in our area.
Carver is also the only bank headquartered in the Savannah area that is certified by the United States Treasury Department as a Community Development Financial Institution. In 2010, we became the only community bank headquartered in Georgia to participate in a New Markets Tax Credit transaction.
At Carver, we have been able to respond promptly to changes in the financial services marketplace and find services that are needed by our customers and prospective customers; then, deliver them efficiently and profitably. We have been successful in cultivating new sources of revenue that are consistent with the bank’s mission and business plan. This foresight enabled us to remain strong through the Great Depression of the 1930’s, the Recession of 2008, and all of the economic ups and downs in-between.
The history, positioning and accomplishments of Carver State Bank are distinctive. The fact that we have thrived as an African American-owned bank in a relatively small southern city makes us unique in itself. For example, there are no African American owned banks in the cities of Charleston, South Carolina or Jacksonville, Florida, although there have been several efforts to establish similar institutions in these areas.
Two of the primary reasons for the long and continuing success of Carver are the stable leadership the bank has enjoyed from the Board of Directors and Senior Management and our commitment to a set of “Core Business Values.”
Carver has had only three presidents, and all of these leaders of Carver have adopted a core business value of “Community Involvement.” Our founder, Louis B. Toomer, was heavily involved in community affairs. Although most of his energy was used to develop and manage his commercial enterprises, Toomer held numerous leadership positions in local and national organizations. He was known throughout the nation for his active involvement in community affairs. Because of his influence and business acumen, he was appointed Registrar on the U. S. Treasury under the Eisenhower Administration and served from 1953 to 1956. During that period, Toomer traveled by train from Savannah, Georgia to Washington, DC each week, and returned to work at the bank on Friday and Saturday.
Mr. Toomer remained President of Carver until his death in May 1961. After his death, Lawrence D. Perry was elected the second President. Mr. Perry served as cashier from the date the bank began operation. Perry continued Toomer’s legacy of community involvement. He was a leader in several civic organizations and was the first African American to be appointed a member of the Savannah Airport Commission and the Chatham County Board of Education. Perry retired on December 1, 1971.
Since I became President of Carver in 1971, we have continued our participation in community affairs and the list of organizations where I have served are far too numerous to list at this time. Most recently, I completed a successful term as Chairman of the Savannah Economic Development Authority, an organization that is considered one of the premier economic development agencies in the country. When people learn of all of the community initiatives that we support, participate in, or lead, they are usually overwhelmed. They usually think that Carver is a much larger bank than we are.
This commitment to community involvement is partially why we have the OUTSTANDING Community Re-investment Act Rating from FDIC that I mentioned earlier.
In addition to “Community Involvement,” our commitment to “Staff Development” is another of these values that has remained unchanged over the years.
There is seldom a time when we do not have a Carver staff member involved in some type of job training or career enhancement program. This commitment to the uplift of our staff members has certainly paid off because of all of the technical developments and other changes in our business.
Last year, Carver developed a new, comprehensive strategic plan that we know will lead us to expanded service opportunities. In fact, we have already started one of the new initiatives. We have revised and enhanced our lending programs, including doing more SBA Lending. In fact, we envision creating an environment where our Skidaway Branch becomes a one-stop loan center for this entire region, where the loan officers that the customers talk to have the skills to analyze the loan requests and the authority to make the loan decisions.
Savannah is an amazing community, and a wonderful place to work, raise a family and live, in part, because of Carver State Bank and its tremendous heritage of service, leadership, success. We are looking forward to another 90 years and beyond.