“I don’t know what to say, Mister Church.”
The reverend, normally a verbally adroit man, was utterly unable to express what the paperwork spread across the table before him meant.
“I think ‘Yes’ or ‘Thank you’ is a generally accepted place to start, and please, call me Robert.” Robert Church was gathering up his copies of the documents, a smile on his face.
“This is just such a shock, sir. We’re a church. We’re not used to receiving charity. We’re used to giving it.”
“Who ever said this was charity? You’ll pay that loan back.”
The reverend flipped a few sheets of paper over and pointed to an empty section in the middle of the page.
“You left the interest rate blank, and the repayment period. I don’t know of any bank that does something like that.”
“We’re not any bank.” Church put his had on and extended his hand to the reverend. “The Solvent Savings Bank and Trust Company was founded to help the black community in financial ways we couldn’t before, and keeping the Beale Street Baptist Church out of foreclosure seems right up our alley.”
The reverend gladly shook his hand. “I’ll see you on Sunday, Robert.”
Robert Church was one of the most benevolent people to ever live in Memphis, and probably the first black millionaire in the South. Most of his giving was focused on bolstering the culture of the black community in Memphis. He also helped to found the first black-owned bank in Memphis since Reconstruction. If you ever need a role model, just look to him.