It is with great sadness that we report the death of Dr. Emma C. Chappell, founder of United Bank of Philadelphia and PBI Advisory Board Member, in Philadelphia last Tuesday, at age 80.
Emma founded Philadelphia’s only African-American owned bank in 1992, becoming the first African-American woman to form a commercial bank in the United States. Emma said she started the bank with a focus on improving banking services in historically underserved neighborhoods of Philadelphia. She was the bank’s chairman of the board, president and CEO until 2000.
The Philadelphia Tribune highlights in an obituary that Emma was “a visionary … [who] accomplished many firsts.” Mike Krauss, Chair of the Pennsylvania Public Bank Project, notes that Emma was, “a nationally recognized leader of the struggle for civil rights and equal justice, friend to U.S. presidents, and confidante and adviser to local and national political leaders. She was an early, ardent and effective advocate for public banking and served as an advisor to the Pennsylvania Project.”
Conni Billé of the Philadelphia Public Banking Coalition writes,
“Emma Chappell was a friend and an inspiration to Philadelphia public banking advocates. She was among our earliest supporters and testified with us before City Council’s Finance Committee. She was unique and irreplaceable. Emma had direct knowledge of the power of banking to bring financial resources to underserved communities, as well as the experience of empowering a community to create its own banking resource. Let’s remember her by bringing her vision of public banking to reality.”