Alvin Boutte Sr. Dies at 82

He led the nation's largest black-owned bank and helped bankroll Martin Luther King Jr.'s work.

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Chicago Sun-Times

Alvin Boutte Sr., a Chicago businessman whose Independence Bank provided loans to Martin Luther King Jr. to support his civil rights efforts, died Sunday at age 82.

From the Chicago Sun-Times:

Mr. Boutte learned perseverance from his father, who was routinely turned away when he tried to vote in the South, according to the book, African-American Business Leaders: a Biographical Dictionary.

“You know, my father lived his entire life in America, and he never once voted,” Mr. Boutte recalled in the book. “I can remember how he’d dress me up and we’d walk down to the voting place and they’d tell him, ‘You know you can’t vote.’ He’d just walk back and try again the next time.”

Mr. Boutte became part of the Great Migration that brought African Americans to Chicago and other northern cities to seek opportunity denied them in the South.

But unlike many of the transplanted arrivals, “Boutte had a number of advantages,” according to African-American Business Leaders. “He was educated, he had served as an officer in the U.S. Army, he was alert to business opportunity and success, and he was tremendously ambitious.”

Mr. Boutte got his start owning and operating a Chicago drugstore. The drugstore expanded to a chain and Mr. Boutte became acquainted with black business leaders, including George Johnson, who became a powerhouse with his Ultra Sheen and Afro Sheen hair-care products.

They helped found Independence Bank at 79th and Cottage Grove, which grew to be the nation’s largest minority-owned bank. Eventually, Independence Bank acquired Drexel National Bank. It was a watershed moment ­-- the first time that a “black” bank had acquired a healthy “white” bank ...

When King was in need of funds to bankroll the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Mr. Boutte convened a meeting of Chicago’s African-American business leaders and raised $55,000, the Rev. Jesse Jackson said.

Read more at the Chicago Sun-Times.

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