The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon
Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

city

Edward D. Irons

Educator and businessman Edward Irons was born in Hulbert, Oklahoma on August 29, 1923. After attending Attucks High School, Irons was drafted into the Navy, and while recovering from rheumatic fever in a V.A. hospital, he and several other patients organized a sit-in to protest segregation in the hospital.

Following his honorable discharge, Irons traveled to Ohio intent on attending Wilburforce University, despite the fact that he had not been admitted nor had his G.I. Bill papers been processed. Nevertheless, he successfully completed his B.S. in business administration, after being unable to obtain an internship in engineering due to prejudice. From there, Irons worked in a hospital as business manager, and then went on to earn an M.A. in hospital administration from the University of Minnesota in 1951. After working a number of jobs, Irons took a teaching job at Florida A&M, but his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement led to him being ostracized by university executives. He left there to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard, where he studied new banks.

In 1964, he and his partners opened Riverside National Bank in Houston, Texas, the first bank given a charter to African Americans in forty years. From there, Irons worked for USAID and served as the founding dean of Howard University’s business school. After leaving Howard, he worked as a consultant to dozens of organizations around the globe, and has been a professor and dean of the business school of Clark-Atlanta University. There, he helped the program to become re-accredited, and he continues to teach there today.

Accession Number

A2004.178

Sex

Male

Interview Date

9/24/2004 |and| 10/13/2004

Last Name

Irons

Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

D.

Schools

Attucks School

Wilberforce University

Harvard Business School

University of Michigan

University of Minnesote Curtis L. Carlson School of Management

Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Depends on Schedule

First Name

Edward

Birth City, State, Country

Hulbert

HM ID

IRO01

Speakers Bureau Preferred Audience

Adults: Finance and Entrepreneurship, Youth and Teens: Achievement and risk in life

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Yes - $500 - $1,000

Favorite Season

Spring

Speaker Bureau Notes

Availability Specifics: Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Weekends and Selected Evenings
Preferred Audience: Adults: Finance and Entrepreneurship, Youth and Teens: Achievement and risk in life

State

Oklahoma

Favorite Vacation Destination

Bahamas

Favorite Quote

I Will Find A Way Or Make One.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Birth Date

8/29/1923

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

United States

Favorite Food

All Food

Short Description

Economist and academic administrator Edward D. Irons (1923 - ) co-founded Riverside National Bank in Houston, Texas, the first bank given a charter to African Americans in forty years. Irons also worked for USAID, and served as the dean of Howard University’s business school and dean of the business school of Clark Atlanta University.

Employment

Florida A&M University

Riverside National Bank

United States Agency for International Development

Howard University Business School

Business School of Clark-Atlanta University

Atlanta University

District of Columbia

Clark Atlanta University

Favorite Color

None

Timing Pairs
0,0:9930,101:10515,112:10970,120:11685,133:13739,140:14529,151:15477,163:16109,172:17531,197:18084,204:18558,211:26986,285:27914,295:39100,415:39736,423:40266,429:40690,434:41432,442:42280,451:42825,470:43360,476:44430,490:44858,495:45607,503:46463,512:47640,526:48175,532:52710,568:53095,574:53403,579:60572,658:61088,666:62292,687:65492,719:66339,731:66724,737:67109,743:67571,751:71034,803:72258,815:73210,838:73618,845:74094,853:74366,858:74842,866:75454,877:75862,884:77890,891:80036,934:87232,1007:89348,1051:89900,1059:92230,1069:93448,1085:94144,1096:96928,1134:101350,1171:105192,1191:105622,1197:106224,1205:107342,1219:108460,1234:108976,1242:109578,1249:115670,1327:116420,1338:119698,1375:120118,1381:121425,1392:121845,1397:122685,1406:123315,1413:124534,1424:131292,1473:133317,1505:134208,1518:134532,1523:137186,1545:137780,1552:138572,1561:139760,1573:140156,1578:145130,1641:145850,1654:147218,1676:148010,1689:149954,1734:150530,1748:151106,1759:151466,1765:157320,1844$0,0:3672,83:4386,99:4998,105:13585,311:16049,350:19052,399:20284,417:20669,423:21516,437:26304,534:28846,759:29338,769:30322,799:33192,937:33848,946:39375,962:40050,977:40725,988:41325,997:42750,1040:44925,1084:46275,1115:46650,1121:58623,1229:61713,1294:63451,1328:69480,1345:74644,1361:75700,1384:75964,1389:76558,1402:76954,1409:78630,1414:78934,1419:83110,1473:83390,1478:83670,1483:84160,1492:85280,1509:86190,1527:100448,1733:103802,1821:112382,2123:114644,2197:119922,2212:128109,2377:134034,2433:135074,2444:135490,2449:143250,2546
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Edward D. Irons' interview, session one

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Edward D. Irons lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Edward D. Irons talks about his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Edward D. Irons talks about his father

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Edward D. Irons describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Edward D. Irons talks about researching his ancestry

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Edward D. Irons describes his earliest childhood memories of growing up in Vinita, Oklahoma

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Edward D. Irons lists his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Edward D. Irons remembers the race relations in his neighborhood in Vinita, Oklahoma during the 1930s and 1940s, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Edward D. Irons remembers the race relations in his neighborhood in Vinita, Oklahoma during the 1930s and 1940s, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Edward D. Irons describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood in Vinita, Oklahoma

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Edward D. Irons describes his experiences at Attucks School in Vinita, Oklahoma

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Edward D. Irons remembers mentor Louis Ryan, his basketball coach and science teacher

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Edward D. Irons recalls the dynamics of Attucks School in Vinita, Oklahoma

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Edward D. Irons remembers his accomplishments at Attucks School in Vinita, Oklahoma

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Edward D. Irons recalls his aspiration to leave his small town as a student at Attucks School in Vinita, Oklahoma

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Edward D. Irons talks about attending church as a boy in Vinita, Oklahoma

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Edward D. Irons talks about being drafted to the U.S. Navy after graduating high school in 1941

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Edward D. Irons remembers his experience of racial discrimination in the U.S. Navy during World War II

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Edward D. Irons talks about how World War II altered soldiers' perspectives on race

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Edward D. Irons describes the outcome of his sit-in at Muskogee VA Medical Center in Muskogee, Oklahoma, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Edward D. Irons describes the outcome of his sit-in at Muskogee VA Medical Center in Muskogee, Oklahoma, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Edward D. Irons remembers his decision to attend College of Education and Industrial Arts at Wilberforce University in Wilberforce, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Edward D. Irons recalls receiving the dean's help to register at College of Education and Industrial Arts at Wilberforce University in Wilberforce, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Edward D. Irons talks about studying business after being rejected from Antioch College's engineering program

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Edward D. Irons describes his extracurricular activities at College of Education and Industrial Arts at Wilberforce University in Wilberforce, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Edward D. Irons recalls eccentric professors at College of Education and Industrial Arts at Wilberforce University in Wilberforce, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Edward D. Irons talks about his grades at College of Education and Industrial Arts at Wilberforce University in Wilberforce, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Edward D. Irons remembers being hired as business manager for Moton Memorial Hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Edward D. Irons recalls administering Moton Memorial Hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Edward D. Irons recalls his award-winning management thesis at University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Edward D. Irons remembers being appointed administrator of Taft State Hospital for the Negro Insane in Taft, Oklahoma by the governor

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Edward D. Irons explains why he left his position of administrator at Taft State Hospital for the Negro Insane in Taft, Oklahoma

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Edward D. Irons remembers his experiences as an administrator at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee, Florida

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Edward D. Irons remembers the racial discrimination at Harvard Business School in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Edward D. Irons remembers his discouraging doctoral advisor at Harvard Business School in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Edward D. Irons explains how he succeeded at Harvard Business School in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Edward D. Irons recalls his goal of organizing an African American-controlled bank

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Edward D. Irons describes organizing Riverside National Bank, the first chartered African American-controlled bank in over forty years

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Edward D. Irons talks about accepting a position as a development banking consultant for the U.S. government

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Edward D. Irons recalls running the Investment Survey Division of the United States Agency for International Development

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Edward D. Irons remembers resigning from Howard University School of Business in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Edward D. Irons recalls being hired as the dean of the Clark Atlanta University School of Business Administration in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Edward D. Irons recalls obtaining reaccreditation of the undergraduate business school as dean at Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Edward D. Irons narrates his photographs

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Slating of Edward D. Irons' interview, session two

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Edward D. Irons remembers difficulties at Harvard Business School in Boston, Massachusetts in the 1950s

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Edward D. Irons recalls writing his dissertation at Harvard Business School in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Edward D. Irons remembers his hiring as a finance professor at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Edward D. Irons talks about organizing Riverside National Bank in the early 1960s

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Edward D. Irons remembers the response to the opening of Riverside National Bank

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Edward D. Irons explains banking charters

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Edward D. Irons recalls his resignation from Riverside National Bank

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Edward D. Irons describes the outcome of his exit from Riverside National Bank

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Edward D. Irons explains development banking

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Edward D. Irons remembers being unable to head the development bank in Lagos, Nigeria following the outbreak of the Biafran War

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Edward D. Irons recalls being hired to head the Investment Survey Division of the United States Agency for International Development

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Edward D. Irons describes racial prejudice that he and his staff experienced at United States Agency for International Development

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Edward D. Irons reflects upon the exploitation authorized by the United States Agency for International Development

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Edward D. Irons remembers being asked to organize a business school at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Edward D. Irons describes the conflict with HistoryMaker James Cheek that led to Irons' departure from Howard University in Washington, D.C., pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Edward D. Irons describes the conflict with HistoryMaker James Cheek that led to Irons' departure from Howard University in Washington, D.C., pt. 2

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Edward D. Irons talks about Charles H. Wesley

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Edward D. Irons remembers obtaining the Mills B. Lane endowed chair at Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Edward D. Irons talks about being appointed banking commissioner for the District of Columbia

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Edward D. Irons talks about being his initial accomplishments as banking commissioner for the District of Columbia

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Edward D. Irons explains his conflict with HistoryMaker Charlene Drew Jarvis over banking regulations in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Edward D. Irons talks about his time as dean of Clark Atlanta University School of Business Administration in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Edward D. Irons talks about the importance of inspiring entrepreneurship in the African American community

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Edward D. Irons explains his disagreement with HistoryMaker Andrew F. Brimmer over the viability of African American financial institutions

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Edward D. Irons explains his position on African American financial institutions

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Edward D. Irons talks about covert racial discrimination by financial institutions

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Edward D. Irons describes the discrimination against high-achieving African Americans men in business

Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Edward D. Irons explains how racial and gender discrimination impacts young African Americans in business

Tape: 10 Story: 6 - Edward D. Irons lists his organization affiliations and accomplishments, pt. 1

Tape: 10 Story: 7 - Edward D. Irons lists his organization affiliations and accomplishments, pt. 2

Tape: 10 Story: 8 - Edward D. Irons describes his concerns for the African American community

Tape: 10 Story: 9 - Edward D. Irons recalls Mayor Maynard Jackson's inclusion of African American businesses during construction of an airport in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 11 Story: 1 - Edward D. Irons reflects upon his life

Tape: 11 Story: 2 - Edward D. Irons reflects upon how he has maintained physical and spiritual health

Tape: 11 Story: 3 - Edward D. Irons reflects upon his parents' early deaths

Tape: 11 Story: 4 - Edward D. Irons reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 11 Story: 5 - Edward D. Irons describes how he would like to be remembered.

DASession

2$2

DATape

7$8

DAStory

6$7

DATitle
Edward D. Irons remembers the response to the opening of Riverside National Bank
Edward D. Irons remembers being asked to organize a business school at Howard University in Washington, D.C.
Transcript
Riverside National Bank [Houston, Texas], and I--we organized the bank and we had--we got nationwide publicity, because they had not been a commercial bank with a national charter organized in the United States since 1922. And this was nineteen, well, it opened in '64 [1964]; we had begun the process in '61 [1961] or '62 [1962]. And so we got nation-wide publicity when we got the charter. Well, we were gonna have to raise five hundred thousand dollars. Well, in those days, raising five hundred thousand dollars was a major hurdle in the black community. And there were many naysayers who felt we couldn't do it, and it took us, oh, approximately a year to raise a half million dollars in those days. But the interesting thing about that in retrospect, once we raised it, and the word got out that we had raised it, we could've raised another half million dollars in thirty days. That's the way the attitude changed in the community. We built a brand new structure; we had an architect who went around at that time of--Houston [Texas] had quite a number of independent new banks, and they had modern, modern architectural buildings, and so our architect went around and observed these various architectural structures and came up with a unique design for Riverside National and that's what we built. And it was an impressive little bank, little building, and in those days, only five thousand square feet. But that was adequate for a new bank, and the day we opened the bank, because we had developed so much publicity, there were people standing outside the bank door waiting as though we gonna be giving away money. I mean, that was the excitement associated with opening that bank. There had not been one for forty years, and so this was a major achievement in the black community, nationally. And it got national publicity.$Sixty-seven [1967], okay (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Yes, '67 [1967]. This is when I left the state department [U.S. Department of State, United States Agency for International Development (USAID)] and went to Howard [University, Washington, D.C.].$$All right.$$They said, "We got a lot of students in the business department but we--it's not a school." Howard had a--had the most diversified university of any black school in the country. Med [Medical] school [Howard University College of Medicine, Washington, D.C.], dental school [Howard University College of Dentistry, Washington, D.C.], engineering school [Howard University School of Engineering and Architecture; College of Engineering and Architecture, Washington, D.C.], [Howard University] School of Education [Washington, D.C.], School of Arts and Sciences [Howard University College of Arts and Sciences, Washington, D.C.], they had them all, but they didn't have a business school. And so they wanted to organize a business school, and they asked if I would consider coming to be the first dean of the business school, and I said, "Under the right conditions." And that meant I would have to come as a full professor and I would be given a certain salary that I would need, and that they would set up the environment in which I could do it. Because any organization can develop systems that could prevent you from doing it, if that's what they wanted to do. I knew that. And so I said, I want to make sure that the wheels agree, so that I can get it done, and so I agreed.$$Who was the president at Howard?$$James Nabrit (simultaneous)$$(Simultaneous) That's what I thought.$$Jim Nabrit, Jim Nabrit was president, and Frank [M.] Snowden [Jr.] was the dean that came to see me.$$Frank Snowden the (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) He was dean of College of Liberal Arts [Howard University College of Arts and Sciences, Washington, D.C.].$$He's a classicist, yeah.$$Yeah, he was a classicist.$$Yeah.$$Graduate of Harvard [University, Cambridge, Massachusetts].$$Right.$$So he called up Harvard University, he called up Harvard University, [Harvard] Business School [Boston, Massachusetts] to find out if they had any black graduates, and they said, "You got one right there in the state department." And so, he came to see me, and I asked where he got his information, and he said, "Well, I called the school, and they told me you were here." And anyway, I negotiated that situation, and they gave me the full professorship, gave me the salary, and so I went over there.