As Carver State Bank officials prepare to kick off the bank’s 85th Anniversary Celebration, Savannah officials held a press conference on Tuesday, January 17th to highlight efforts to protect the monument saluting the bank’s founder, Louis B. Toomer.
Carver State Bank of Savannah was chartered on February 23, 1927, and on Saturday, February 11, 2012, this beloved Savannah institution begin celebrating its 85th Anniversary with a reception in the ballroom of the Savannah Civic Center. The reception will begin at 2:00pm The Honorable Michael Grant, President of the National Bankers Association, will be the keynote speaker.
During 2011, the sundial monument in Chatham Square that honors Toomer was vandalized four times, and the Savannah-Chatham Historic Site and Monument Commission repaired it each time. By calling attention to the “petty vandalism,” city officials are hoping to halt the destruction.
Alderwoman Mary Osborne, who has been a long-time advocate for enhancing and preserving the monument called it a “shame that these destructive individuals are damaging this very important symbol of Savannah’s history.” She added, “I choose to believe that these vandals would not attempt to destroy this monument if they understood its significance.”
Robert E. James, President of Carver State Bank said that Louis B. Toomer was a trailblazer among business and political leaders, especially African Americans. Toomer was the founder and first president of Carver State Bank, the oldest locally owned bank in the Savannah area. Born in 1893, Toomer was also a prominent civic and political leader.
He was appointed Registrar of the Treasury by President Dwight D. Eisenhower and served from 1953 to 1956. Toomer also owned an insurance agency and real estate management business. According to James, individuals associated with Carver State Bank over the years have helped maintain many of his guiding principles. “For example, Toomer believed that it was important for African American business leaders to be involved in civic affairs and this commitment to community service and civic participation has continued as a guiding principal for the organization over the years,” said James. Today, members of our board and staff participate and provide leadership for numerous community organizations and initiatives.
City officials hope that by calling attention to this petty criminal activity, people will be vigilant, and will notify law enforcement if they witness the destructive activity. Carver is the oldest locally owned bank in Savannah, and the fourth oldest commercial bank in the United States that is owned by African- Americans. Today, there are only about 28 commercial banks in the United States that are owned by African Americans. James said that most of the other institutions are located in much larger metropolitan areas and it should be a great source of community pride that Savannah is the hope of an independent, African- American-owned bank that has thrived for 85 years.
Toomer’s widow, Mrs. Janie R. Toomer is a Director of Carver State Bank, and for many years served as the Board Secretary. Like her late husband, Mrs. Toomer is a trailblazer among African- American business owners, especially female business owners in Savannah. She was the first licensed African-American female real estate broker in Savannah. She is the owner of Janie R. Toomer Real Estate, a company that she formed in 1978.
Louis B. Toomer died in 1961 and the sundial monument was erected to honor him in 1964. James and Alderwoman Osborne led an effort in 2008 to have the monument refurbished. “It would be great if a plaque could be added that gives more of the history and significance of Toomer,” James said.