The co-founder of one of America's largest Black-owned banks, Alvin Boutte Sr., has died. He was 82. Boutte was one of the country's most influential Black businessmen.
Born in Lake Charles, La., Boutte earned a degree in pharmacy from Xavier University. When he later moved to Chicago, he owned and operated his own drugstore, which was so successful Boutte expanded it as a chain.
Next in 1964 he helped launch Independence Bank, which he co-founded with George Johnson, purveyor of Ultra Sheen and Afro Sheen hair products. Independence went on to become the largest Black-owned bank in the United States. At one point, it had total assets of $145.7 mil.
Independence made history in other ways as well. It was the first African-American-owned bank to buy a well-established, viable white-owned bank when it purchased Drexel National Bank. In 1970, Boutte was named CEO and chairman of the bank. He retired in 1995.
In addition to making his mark in business, Boutte also played a role in the Civil Rights Movement. He donated to and organized a fund-raising effort among Chicago's Black business community for Martin Luther King Jr.`s Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Boutte also helped integrate one of Chicago's exclusive country clubs after he and friends, Olympic medalist Jesse Owens and Ralph Metcalfe Sr. (who later became a member of Congress), were turned down for membership. According to reports, Boutte was relentless in getting the club to open its doors to African-American members. Eventually, the club relented. Boutte also served as an officer in the U.S. Army. In addition, he served on the boards of the Chicago Metropolitan Insurance Company and Johnson Products.
Boutte died April 1st in his home in Hazel Crest, Illinois. The cause of death was not given.