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Milton Davis

Chicago banking pioneer Milton Davis is the co-founder and chairman emeritus of ShoreBank Corporation, the nation's first community development bank. It is the leading bank holding company committed to increasing economic opportunities for underserved urban and rural communities.

Davis was born to a father who was a school principal and a mother who was a teacher on January 10, 1932 in Jasper, Alabama. He graduated Morehouse College with a sociology degree in 1953 and came to Chicago in 1958 to attend the University of Chicago graduate school. While working at South Shore National Bank, he and three friends frequently met to discuss ideas for a community-oriented bank.

Their opportunity for bank ownership came when the South Shore bank attempted to move to the Loop to escape a changing neighborhood. South Shore residents protested the move and federal bank regulators denied it. The bank was put up for sale.

In 1973, Davis and his associates bought the bank with $800,000 in capital and a $2.4 million bank loan. They attracted depositors in those early days by personally visiting their homes. Within five years, they were able to reverse the neighborhood's decline. In 1995, ShoreBank merged with another bank holding company, becoming a half-billion dollar-plus financial institution.

Davis, who had been actively involved with integrating public schools and opening housing, retired in 2000. He had been a board member of CORE, the Chicago Community Trust, Columbia College, the Field Foundation of Illinois, and ETA for the Creative Arts.

Milton Davis passed away on February 14, 2005.

Accession Number

A2002.074

Sex

Male

Interview Date

5/15/2002

Last Name

Davis

Maker Category
Middle Name

Oliver

Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Morehouse College

Washington University in St Louis

University of Chicago

First Name

Milton

Birth City, State, Country

Jasper

HM ID

DAV06

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Alabama

Favorite Vacation Destination

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Favorite Quote

We Can Do It.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Interview Description
Birth Date

1/10/1932

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Pasta

Death Date

2/14/2005

Short Description

Bank chairman Milton Davis (1932 - 2005 ) is the co-founder of South Shore Bank.

Employment

South Shore Bank

ShoreBank Corporation

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Milton Davis narrates his photographs, pt.1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Milton Davis narrates his photographs, pt.2

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Slating of Milton Davis' interview

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Milton Davis lists his favorites

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Milton Davis talks about his father and mother

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Milton Davis talks about his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Milton Davis describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Milton Davis describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Milton Davis describes his neighborhood and his childhood personality

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Milton Davis describes his awareness of educational inequality as a youth

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Milton Davis talks about his favorite subject, reading

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Milton Davis talks about his grandparents' influence on him

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Milton Davis describes influential people in his life including Lueada Meadows Smith, a local librarian

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Milton Davis talks about his grade school years

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Milton Davis describes his decision to attend Morehouse College

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Milton Davis talks about his experience at Morehouse College

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Milton Davis talks about Benjamin Mays, whom he admired

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Milton Davis talks about those he remembers from Morehouse College including Benjamin Mays and Jim Webb

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Milton Davis reflects on his decision to join CORE

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Milton Davis talks about his activities in CORE

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Milton Davis talks about why he decided to major in sociology

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Milton Davis describes his experiences at Washington University in St. Louis and Northwestern University where he first met Ron Grzywinski

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Milton Davis describes Chicago in the late 1950s as a resident of the Woodlawn area

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Milton Davis talks about the beginning of South Shore Bank

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Milton Davis talks about raising money to purchase South Shore Bank

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Milton Davis talks about buying the charter for South Shore bank

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Milton Davis describes creating a model for development banking

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Milton Davis describes winning the community's trust

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Milton Davis talks about Bill Clinton's support and legislation for community development banks

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Milton Davis describes how banks became invested in community development

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Milton Davis talks about the supporters of South Shore Bank

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Milton Davis describes the impact of development deposits at South Shore Bank

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Milton Davis talks about the South Shore Bank Neighborhood Institute

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Milton Davis describes how South Shore Bank broke precedent by financing the properties of African Americans in low-income communities

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Milton Davis talks about the community development model across the nation

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Milton Davis talks about South Shore Bank's venture capital firm

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Milton Davis talks about the founders of South Shore Bank, Ron Grzywinski, Mary Houghton, and James Fletcher

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Milton Davis talks about factors stimulating the growth of South Shore Bank

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Milton Davis describes his community involvement and his work with ETA Creative Arts

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Milton Davis reflects on his career

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Milton Davis describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Milton Davis shares his advice for today's youth

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Milton Davis talks about his parents' deaths

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Milton Davis talks about how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Milton Davis reflects upon his legacy

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$4

DAStory

6$5

DATitle
Milton Davis reflects on his decision to join CORE
Milton Davis describes winning the community's trust
Transcript
Wasn't there growing activism on the campus at the time that you were there?$$It was in fact that, yes. Cause we--you know I was arrested once in Richard's Department Store for drinking out of the white water fountain. Because my brother--I always did what my brother told me, 'cause he went to Morehouse [College, Atlanta, Georgia] also and he had--one day we were downtown and going through Richards. And he said let's try this white water. So we went over to this water fountain, it was just the same water fountain, but on different sides of the elevator. And one with a big white sign over it and the other with a big colored, colored sign over it. And he said let's try this white water. And no sooner than he said that, this big, burly guard in Richard's had his hand on our shoulders saying you can't drink out of there. You can't drink that water. And I said no, not again. Cause I, I had thought Atlanta [Georgia] would be above that kind--I had really come to believe that--I was really liberated. And even though, you know, it was a highly segregated town of course, but that brought it all back home to me. That this job was still not done. And that's when I--that's when I became very active, even more active I should say.$$Okay and can you talk about some of your activities?$$Well that was about the time that SNCC [Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee] was getting started. And so--and there was a big discussion on campus about whether you wanted--whether we could be active or not. And a lot of--a big split between those, the student body and those who were pushing for more strident activities, and then those who wanted to, to be quiet about it all. But I think I, you know it was actually--that was where the whole thing became ingrained in me that I, I really would have to fight this thing for the rest of my life if necessary. And of course in Atlanta, I had much more support, you know, for an anti, anti-segregation stance than I ever had when I was growing up in high school. And so just a group of us became very, very active and began to--as we used to say stand Atlanta on its head. And of course [Dr.] Martin Luther King [Jr.]'s legacy was a big thing down there at the time. And so we just, you know we would put together different groups and go do our thing.$$Now what's the--were you part of the SNCC [unclear]? You know SNCC did--$$I was not that involved in SNCC. I was--I became active in CORE [Congress of Racial Equality].$$Okay I was wondering if you were involved in SNCC or CORE.$$No, I went directly into CORE.$$Now why, why did you choose CORE?$$I think that's because of some [unclear] that I knew who were involved in it. And was saying that this is the way you should go. And so it was just sort of started to do it. And I mean I don't think we ever--that I ever sat and thought about it at any great length to try and decide what I should do. In those days it was sort of whatever was happening, they just jumped into it.$And what do you think were important building blocks that you put in place that, you know, that it started getting itself together in those three year periods. Were there some critical things that you--$$Well one of the things that we say to date, we began to have a series of community meetings where we didn't send out, you know, anybody. It was Ron [Grzywinski] and myself going to different block club meetings and to other meetings in the neighborhood saying, "This is what the bank intends to do." And so it was the top two guys in the bank saying it's gonna happen. And so it--people could believe it. And I think that became crucial to, to the neighborhood really believing that we were going to, to do this and make it happen. And then we got--of course getting the foundations and churches and individuals who had put up the equity for us to start the bank, I think was an important building block. Because once the Ford Foundation and several others gave us their stamp of approval by saying, "We'll put a lot money into the equity end of this place," it began to build faith from a number of--among others that they we really knew what we were doing.$$And did you find--how long was this--well how long was the, the period of time before you saw some signs of things turning around? Because the community had been--at the time that this, this--you've got the license or the approval to do it, did you--was the community was in a, in a position of sort of rapid change.$$Right, it was still in the process of change, right. It was a year after we got approval on the charter before I say we really began to see that there was some firm evidence of a turnaround in the institution. So it wouldn't have been until '72 [1972] that we began to see that.$$And what were your, what were your, your goals at that time besides you know generally increasing--improve the community? You were almost serving--it was almost as if the work--let me just sort of look at this. The work that you had done, you know, at the University of Chicago--I mean no, you were working there at the time. But were you working--the work that you were doing at the University of Chicago, what area did you say you were working in?$$It was the stock market.$$Stock market.$$The stock market study at the university.$$I see, okay.$$So it had nothing to do with banking.$$It had nothing to do with banking. But it almost seems as if you were using this bank and the community as one sort of one huge experiment, sort of.$$Well that's one way to look at it I guess. Because--because they had failed. Right, one would have said, would have said it was a failed experiment because nobody else had done it. But we knew we couldn't fail and we didn't intend to.$$And so what were the things that you felt important building blocks, and how did you sort of prioritize, you know what to take on and what to do, you know with this?$$Well we set up from day one when we went in the bank that no, no--and (unclear) of the officers in that bank could turn down a loan. If somebody came in, especially an African American came in for some credit and if those were, you know regular bankers and they had been doing this for a long time. And we said, "If you feel it's a good credit, go ahead and do it. But if you wanna say no, then you've gotta let Ron [Grzywinski] or I"--one would have to buy off on that. And I think that prevent--that helped us to build confidence on the part of the community and the people who were coming in to us that we really were serious about what we want to do. You know this bank has a reputation that it will do loans that the other banks turn awa- turn down. And, so that confidence building on the part of the neighborhood I think was an important part of building, building up that confidence in the bank and getting people to believe that we really were going to--that we were there for the long haul and we're gonna do what we said we were going to do.