For the first time in a downtown Savannah square, an African American is honored with a historical marker.
The Georgia Historical Society on Thursday revealed the marker for Louis Burke Toomer, the man who started Carver State Bank.
That marker is placed in Chatham Square, near the intersection of Barnard and West Gordon streets, close to Toomer’s home and bank.
Born in 1897, Toomer moved from a success in real estate into the world of banking. He served as the first president of the institution he founded in February 1927.
The man in that office today, Robert E. James, is not too far removed. He’s the third president in Carver State’s 91-year history.
The bank applied for the marker to recognize Toomer’s contributions to his community.
“African American-owned banks were started, especially the older ones, in an effort to bring, quality banking services to inner-city communities, the underserved, and the unbanked and that was clearly the reason Toomer started Carver State Bank,” James said.
Historian Vaughnette Goode-Walker did much of the research into Toomer’s life for the bank as they worked on their application to the Historical Society.
“As a real estate agent, Toomer had as his motto, I sell the earth and rent the town,” Goode-Walker shared with the crowd on hand for the marker’s unveiling.
During segregation, Toomer’s company provided banking, investment, and insurance services for blacks. He was a tried and true Republican, serving as a GOP delegate from Georgia three times.
In the 1950’s, Toomer was tapped by President Dwight Eisenhower to serve as register of the treasury in Washington, D.C. More than one hundred people were on hand for the dedication and unveiling ceremony, just a few blocks away from the Georgia Historical Society’s headquarters.
Toomer’s life and legacy made the bank’s application for a marker rise to the top of the list for applicants. Elyse Butler, Outreach Coordinator for the Historical Society, said the application really stood out.
“It was reviewed with applications from all across the state and the committee felt that it showed a significance, not just locally, but statewide and nationally,” said Butler.
She added that part of the significance of his marker is that it helped tell the untold story of the 20th century African American businessman.
“It’s expanding, a largely underrepresented story in our state’s past,” Butler said.
The historical marker reads:
Louis B. Toomer: Founder of Carver State Bank
“Louis Burke Toomer, African-American leader, local bank founder, and realtor, was born in Savannah in 1897. Raised and educated locally, Toomer established the Georgia Savings and Realty Corporation on February 23, 1927, in the historic black business district on West Broad Street. During segregation, the company provided banking, investment, and insurance services for blacks who were not always allowed access to white banking establishments. In 1947, the name of the corporation changed to The Carver Savings Bank, and it was converted to a state-supervised savings bank. It became The Carver State Bank in 1962. A staunch Republican who served as a delegate at three GOP conventions, Toomer was appointed Register of the Treasury (1953-1956) by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Toomer died in 1961 and a bronze sundial was erected in his honor in 1964 in Chatham Square. Erected by the Georgia Historical Society and Carver State Bank.”