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James C. Napier

AKA James Carroll Napier

Born: 9-Jun-1845
Birthplace: Nashville, TN
Died: 21-Apr-1940
Location of death: Nashville, TN
Cause of death: unspecified
Remains: Buried, Greenwood Cemetery, Nashville, TN

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: Black
Occupation: Government, Activist, Business
Party Affiliation: Republican

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Founder of Nashville One-Cent Savings Bank

James C. Napier was born a slave, but he was freed along with his parents when he was about three years old. He attended all-black schools, but his education was interrupted twice by rioting white vigilantes who forced the school to close. Napier put himself through college, and after the US Civil War he became an active spokesman for the cause of freed blacks. Mentored by black Congressman John Mercer Langston, he became the first black non-janitorial employee at the Treasury Department, earned his law degree at Howard University and married Langston's daughter. In more than a decade on the Nashville City Council, he authored legislation allowing the hiring of black school teachers, police officers, and firefighters, and became the first African-American to preside over the Council. He lost his Council seat as his Republican Party gradually shifted from supporting blacks' rights to advocating what was called "lily white" government.

A close friend of Booker T. Washington, he remained one of the most powerful American blacks, and was appointed Register of the Treasury Department. His signature appeared on US currency until he resigned this post in 1913, to protest President Woodrow Wilson's decision to allow continued segregation in federal office buildings. Returning to Nashville, Napier used his own savings to establish the Nashville One-Cent Savings Bank (now Citizens Savings Bank & Trust Company), the nation's first bank owned and operated by African-Americans. He helped organize a Negro strike against Nashville's segregated streetcar service in 1905, and he was instrumental in the drive to establish the Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial State Normal School for Negroes (now Tennessee State University).

Father: William Carrol Napier (slave/cab driver, b. 24-Sep-1824, d. 20-Dec-1895)
Mother: Jane Elizabeth Watkins Napier (slave, b. 11-Apr-1825, d. 25-Nov-1909)
Brother: Elias Watkins Napier (d. 29-May-1898)
Brother: Henry Alonzo Napier (b. 17-Jul-1851, d. 16-Dec-1882)
Sister: Ida Napier Langston (b. 2-Jan-1858, d. 30-Oct-1937)
Wife: Nettie Langston Napier (dau. of John Mercer Langston, b. 17-Jun-1860, m. 2-Oct-1878, d. 27-Sep-1938, one daughter)
Daughter: Carye Cornelia Langston Napier (adopted, biologically Napier's niece, b. 1-Feb-1894, d. 10-Oct-1918)

    University: Wilberforce University (attended 1864-66)
    University: BS, Oberlin College (1868)
    Law School: LLD, Howard University (1872)
    Administrator: Trustee, Fisk University
    Administrator: Trustee, Howard University
    Administrator: Co-Founder, Tennessee State University

    Nashville One-Cent Savings Bank Founder & President (1904-40)
    Nashville Board of Trade President
    National Negro Business League President (1915-19)
    NAACP
    Tennessee State Official Nashville Housing Authority (1943-45)
    US Treasury Department Register (1911-13)
    Nashville City Council (1878-89)
    Internal Revenue Service to Deputy Collector (1879-85)
    US Treasury Department Clerk (1870-72)
    Tennessee State Official Davidson County Commissioner of Refugees and Abandoned Lands (1868-70)
    Born into Slavery
    Manumission 1848


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