On March 15, 2018, the Savannah City Council unanimously approved a motion by Alderman Bill Durrence, seconded by Alderman Van Johnson, to place a historical marker honoring Carver State Bank founder and first President, Louis B. Toomer, in Chatham Square. During the Council meeting, Fifth District Alderman Dr. Estella Shabazz spoke about the historic significance of the Council’s action. Shabazz said the Toomer Historical Marker will be the first for the Historic District of Savannah, since there are no other Historical Markers honoring African Americans in the historic district of Savannah.
The action by the Council was the final step in an approval process that was initiated by Robert E. James, President of Carver State Bank. James recalls that on Saturday, February 27, 2016, as part of Carver’s 89th Anniversary Celebration, the bank sponsored a pilgrimage to the current Sundial Monument honoring Toomer that is located in Chatham Square. A host of Savannah community leaders participated in the event, including Savannah Mayor Eddie DeLoach; Aldermen Estella Shabazz, Bill Durrence and Julian Miller; as well as former County Commissioner Yusuf Shabazz. They were joined by a large group of Carver supporters, Directors, staff, and other community leaders, including former Savannah Mayors Edna Jackson and Otis Johnson, and former Metro Police Chief Joseph H. Lumpkin, Sr. The pilgrimage was also part of the 27th Annual Savannah Black Heritage Festival.
James said that after the pilgrimage to the current Sundial Monument in Chatham Square, he received several calls from community leaders saying that something more distinctive should be placed in Chatham Square, near the monument, so that visitors could read about Toomer and his accomplishments. A few months later, the bank commissioned wellknown historian, Vaughnette Goode-Walker, to research Toomer’s life and present the idea of a historical marker to the Georgia Historical Society.
“Vaughnette was tenacious,” said James. After her initial research, she submitted the application to the Georgia Historical Society, and shepherded the project to this point. Hopefully, in a few months, we will have a grand celebration to unveil the new Louis B. Toomer Historical Marker.
Locally, the proposed Toomer Historical Marker was approved by the Savannah – Chatham Historic Site and Monument Commission (HSMC) on February 1, 2018. “I was pleased to join Elyse Butler, Outreach Coordinator for the Georgia Historical Society, at the HSMC meeting to witness the unanimous vote to recommend approval of the Toomer Historical Marker to the Savannah City Council, and hear the favorable comments by the Committee Chair, Eli Karatassos and Committee member Alicia Blakely,” said James. Karatassos participated in the 2016 pilgrimage. Blakely enthusiastically endorsed the project and called for more visible recognitions of the contributions of African Americans to the development of Savannah. Carver is the oldest bank headquartered in Savannah, and one of only 22 African-American owned commercial banks in the United States. It was established in 1927, as the Georgia Savings and Realty Corporation to serve the financial needs of the African American community in Savannah. This company later became Carver State Bank.