Robert Church Sr. was to succeed in many businesses during his lifetime. Beginning as a saloon owner Church went on to succeed as an owner of hotels, restaurants and real estate. Shot during the Memphis race riots of 1866, Church refused to be run out of town. Not only did he stay to prosper, he supported the community in myriad ways. Church rode out the yellow fever epidemic of 1878 and purchased a number of real estate tracts at bargain prices. He was the first citizen to buy a $1,000 bond to restore the city's charter after it was reduced to a taxing district of the state by the various yellow fever epidemics.
Church twice ran unsuccessfully for a position on the Memphis Board of Public Works in 1882. His business ventures never suffered the same reversals as his political amibitions however. Six years before his death Church founded the Solvent Savings Bank and Trust Company. That institution, of which he was also president went on to become the largest African-American bank in the country.
Fifteen years before his death the Memphis Press-Scimitar proclaimed, "It may be said of Robert Church that his word is as good as his bond. No appeal to him for the aid of any charity or public enterprise for the benefit of Memphis has ever been made in vain. He is for Memphis first, last and all the time."
Robert Church was a fascinating and exceptional man who deserves much more space than he is given on this site.
Friday, May 27, 2011
Robert R. Church, Sr.
Posted by bluemango at 7:21 PM