African American Public Relations Corporation

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

William R. Hudgins

William R. Hudgins, 100, helped start nation's largest black-owned bank

Published on: 09/05/07

William R. Hudgins, a former door-to-door salesman in Harlem who helped start the Carver Federal Savings Bank, now the largest black-owned bank in the nation, and was its president for 18 years, died Friday at his home in Manhattan.

Hudgins, who along with Jackie Robinson later helped start the Freedom National Bank, was 100.

The death was announced by his daughter, Jan Hudgins Riley.

With seven other Harlem leaders, Hudgins founded what was originally known as the Carver Federal Savings and Loan Association in 1948, when blacks were facing what an article in The New York Times called "a wall of bias" in obtaining loans from major financial institutions.

"There was always black homeownership and business ownership in Harlem in the '40s, '50s, '60s, but the question was who provided the loan money," Earl G. Graves Sr., the publisher of Black Enterprise magazine, said Tuesday. "It was usually family, friends, persons you knew in the church that you attended or, in the West Indian community, sou-sous, informal credit unions."

"Bill Hudgins recognized the need," Graves said.

The Carver bank, named for the botanist George Washington Carver, was started on a financial shoestring of $250,000 with $14,000 in cash and the rest in pledges from community residents.

By 1962, it had lent more than $30 million to about 3,000 home buyers and maintained more than 32,000 savings accounts.

Last year, with branches in Manhattan, Queens, the Bronx and Brooklyn, Carver held assets of $648 million and deposits of $488 million, according to Black Enterprise Magazine.

In 1966, Hudgins joined with another group of black leaders, including Robinson, who by then had retired as a baseball player, to form the Freedom National Bank. He was its president until 1971. Freedom National went out of business in 1990.

William Randolph Hudgins was born in Petersburg, Va., on April 30, 1907. At the age of 2 he was adopted by William and Agnes Hudgins. His adoptive father was a carpenter and owned a delivery truck; his adoptive mother was a music teacher.

A tall, thin young man, Hudgins came to Harlem in his early 20s. He first worked door to door as a Fuller Brush salesman, then took a job at a local dry-cleaning store that specialized in refurbishing costumes from Broadway shows.

In 1943, he parlayed the value from several real estate investments to start Best Yet Hair Products, a mail-order business that sold high-quality wigs made from human hair.

Because of his business success in the late 1940s, Hudgins became the first black person chosen to join the merchants' division of the Uptown Chamber of Commerce in Manhattan, now called the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce.

Hudgins married three times. His first marriage, to the former Martha Fitzgerald, ended in divorce. His second wife, Myrtle Patterson Hudgins, died in 1972. Besides his daughter, Jan, of Manhattan, Hudgins is survived by his third wife, the former Dorothy Carroll, whom he married in 1972; a son, Alvin, of Sarasota, Fla.; eight grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

Although Freedom National Bank was less successful than the Carver bank, a Time magazine article in 1966 offered a glimpse of the mission that Hudgins envisioned for his banking enterprises. "Almost like a small-town banker, Hudgins gets personally involved in many loan applications," the article said. "Doubtfuls usually wind up in his second-floor office to plead their bcases, and frequently get their loans after careful investigation."


Blogger Michael Pendleton said...

Looking to contact Dorothy Carroll Hudgins sister of Vinnette Carroll.

Saturday, January 08, 2011 8:36:00 AM  

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