Robert E. James, President of Carver State Bank and a well-known community leader, visited Savannah State University on November 4th for a discussion of power and community success. James was the guest of Dr. Stephanie Alexander and the students in her Social Stratification class. The students invited other members of the campus community.
In addition to being President of Carver State Bank since 1971, James has held numerous leadership positions in the Savannah community, including Chairman of Savannah Economic Development Authority, Treasurer of the Chamber of Commerce and a founder of the Savannah Business League. He has been involved in many economic empowerment initiatives over the past 48 years. James served as co-chair of Mayor Otis Johnson’s election committee and Former Mayor Edna Jackson often referred to him as her “unpaid political advisor.”
James used his vast experience to lead the enthusiastic students and guests in a comprehensive discussion of the wealth and power disparities in the Savannah community, and helped the group identify several possible remedial actions.
James suggested that one possible first step to decreasing poverty is “to encourage and inspire people to plan and work toward getting out of poverty.” He emphasized the importance of education, training, investing and business ownership to bridging the wealth gap. He encouraged all of the students to make a life plan that includes an economic plan. He praised them for understanding the importance of a college degree, and said that for many of them it is important to further their education beyond a bachelor’s degree in order to get the career opportunity they desire. He said that his parents understood that education is clearly one path out of poverty.
Carver is a small, African American owned bank that has been successful for 92 years in Savannah, a midsize city in southeast Georgia, where for many years about 25% of the population has lived below the federal poverty level. African Americans are more than 54% of Savannah’s population and while serving as Chairman of Step Up Savannah (the local poverty reduction agency), James said he learned that almost 30% of the African Americans in Savannah survive on incomes that are below the federal poverty guidelines.
Carver is the only bank headquartered in the Savannah area that has an OUTSTANDING Community Reinvestment Act Rating from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and one of only two banks in Georgia that is certified by the US Treasury Department as a Community Development Financial Institution.