Entrepreneurs of North Carolina History Exhibit
Entrepreneurs of Money
1872Alpheus Branch | BB&T
Partnering with Thomas Hadley in Wilson, NC, Alpheus Branch created “a banking institution people could believe in” after the devastation of the Civil War. As private bankers, Branch and Hadley accepted time deposits, paid interest and loaned money to help rebuild the farms and small businesses in the community.
With a place to borrow money at reasonable interest to buy seed and fertilizer, the area experienced a rebirth. Farmers planted their fields in cotton, and in the early 1880s, experimented with a new money crop: tobacco.
In 1887, Branch bought out Hadley’s share of Branch and Company, Bankers for $81,000, a small fortune at the time. In 1913 it became the Branch Bank and Trust Company. Now headquartered in Winston-Salem, NC, BB&T is among the nation’s top financial-holding companies with $159 billion in assets.
1898Charles Spaulding | NC Mutual Life Insurance Company
Born during Reconstruction in Columbus County, NC, Charles Clinton Spaulding grew up on a farm owned by his African-American father and learned from an early age that hard work was the key to success. Spaulding worked primarily as a farmer, but would also find work as a smith, a carpenter, bellhop, dishwasher, waiter, and later as the sheriff of Columbus County. While living with his uncle in Durham in 1898, he became the manager of a grocery store co-op that went out of business the following year, and left Spaulding $300 in debt.
In 1898, he was lucky enough to have invested, along with seven black entrepreneurs who included his uncle and mentor A. M. Moore, fifty dollars in a new venture: the North Carolina Mutual Provident Association. Spaulding was fortunate to have been out of work and the other entrepreneurs were too busy to manage this new insurance company. So Spaulding was named general manager, and only employee, of North Carolina Mutual and Provident Corporation barely two years from the time he had earned the equivalent of a modern-day high school diploma. The insurance company thrived as a result of Spaulding’s clever management and marketing expertise, where it is noted that he would “advertise the life insurance policies on spittoons and medical thermometers.”
By 1908 the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company had over 100,000 clients, helping Durham become known as the “Black Wall Street.” Under Spaulding’s leadership from 1900–1952, N.C. Mutual was the largest business owned by African-Americans.
1907Richard B. Fitzgerald | Mechanics & Farmers Bank
Richard B. Fitzgerald operated a brick making business near Hillsborough with his brother, Robert, which was not initially a success due to the poor economy at the time, lack of customers to purchase the bricks, and a flash flood that destroyed several thousand bricks they had produced for the Central Prison in Raleigh.
The Fitzgeralds moved to Durham in 1870 and developed a process that could dry bricks in any season, allowing the business to turn out over 30,000 bricks per day. The business expanded to the point of filling orders for two million bricks, and having an order from tobacco manufacturer William T. Blackwell “for all the brick he could make”, made Fitzgerald very wealthy.
Over the next 15 years, Fitzgerald invested his brick making profits in to other ventures, most notably in real estate, a newspaper printing business for the African community in Durham, the Durham Drug Company in 1895, and became the president of the Coleman Manufacturing Company in 1898. He was also a member of the famed “Black Wall Street” as he was, in 1907, an original incorporator of the Mechanics and Farmers Bank, so aptly named for the various trades, crafts and professions that were represented by the incorporators and original customers in Durham’s African-American community.
1971Adolph Dial | Lumbee Guaranty Bank
Adolph Dial helped establish the Lumbee Guaranty Bank, the first American-Indian bank in the United States, in Pembroke, NC. The bank first conducted business in a mobile unit, until Dial built an extension to a Piggly Wiggly shopping center in Pembroke. The Bank moved into the permanent quarters on February 20, 1973.
Dial was brought up in the Prospect Community, near Pembroke, in Robeson County, which was considered to be the center of the Lumbee Indian community at the time. Dial learned the value of work on his family’s farm and attended all-Indian public schools and Pembroke State College for Indians. He was an outspoken advocate for the Lumbee Tribal heritage and was a Lumbee Indian historian and author.
Dial was also a professor of political science at Pembroke University, a businessman, real-estate developer, as well as a politician, having been elected to the NC House of Representatives in 1990.