Emma C. Chappell, the first Black woman to found a commercial bank, United Bank of Philadelphia – the city’s only Black-owned bank – passed away Tuesday at the age of 80, according to multiple reports.
WPVI reports Chappell founded the bank at a time where Black and Brown Philadelphians had little access to financial capital and banking institutions willing to serve their specific needs. Raising over six million dollars during the 1992 recession, Chappell poured all her resources into creating something for the community that would continually reinvest in its people.
Chappell served as the bank’s CEO from 1992 to 2000 at which time she stepped down. However, she still continued to be a force in the community the current CEO of United Bank of Philadelphia told WPVI.
“She was unstoppable,” Evelyn Small said. “She had a way with people. She had a gregarious personality.”
Reverend William Moore of Tenth Memorial Baptist Church met Chappell at her previous job when she became the first Black Vice President for Continental Bank in 1977. He noted how as a Black woman, she broke barriers for so many who would follow in her footsteps.
“It was certainly groundbreaking for her as a Black woman to crack the glass ceiling, and she was the one to do it, and the right one to do it,” Rev. Moore said.
City councilman Kenyatta Johnson told the Philadelphia Tribune, “She leaves behind a legacy of leadership and advocacy in business, civil rights, and politics in Philadelphia and around the nation. She was a champion for the rights of children, African Americans and women.”
Not only was Chappell a local influencer, but she also had political influence with some U.S. presidents as was learned in a statement by her family in the wake of her death.
“A friend to numerous United States presidents, and influential in the workings of party politics, Emma will always be remembered for her leadership, advocacy and business acumen.”
Chappell spent the last two years on the radio co-hosting a program on WURD-AM (96.1 FM/900 AM) called “The Black Women’s Leadership Council.”
She was said to have “loved” being on the radio by the show’s co-founder, Joann Bell.
The business pioneer lived out her final days talking about what she loved– Black women in business and politics.