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The Color of Money

Follow-ups and reaction

Lone banker takes heat
at a hearing on loans

By Bill Dedman, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Published October 28, 1988, Page A15

Copyright 1988, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Banker Jim Mynatt's neck turned from white to pink to bright red as citizen after business leader after politician stood up Thursday night to blast the minority lending records of Atlanta banks.

Finally Mr. Mynatt had enough.

"Regardless of what you read in the papers, I must disagree with the assertion of redlining," he said. "Everything I've heard tonight has been negative toward banks. I hope I'm a reasonable person. I'm a Methodist. I have children. Folks, bankers are people too. I belong to a fine institution that's done a lot for this city."

But it was only 7 o'clock and the first vice president of Trust Company Bank had two more hours of the public hearing to endure. He did, usually in good humor, as the only banker who would agree to sit in front of the audience.

"You don't need to take the criticism personally," said the Rev. Joseph E. Lowery, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). ``Bear your share and no more."

The City Hall hearing, sponsored by the SCLC, was attended by about 100 people, including two congressmen, Rep. John Lewis of Atlanta and Rep. Walter E. Fauntroy of the District of Columbia, a member of the House Banking Committee.

Emil Brown, a freight clerk who is black, complained that he had not been able to qualify even for one of the special loans made by Atlanta banks in response to "The Color of Money," the Journal-Constitution's series of articles in May that prompted the hearing. The articles described the effect of race on lending patterns in Atlanta.

"They told me I could qualify for a car loan but not for a home loan," said Mr. Brown, who claimed that he has the required income and low debt for a home loan. "But I do not want to live in a car."

"Where do you work?" Mr. Brown was asked by the Rev. Lowery.

"A bank," Mr. Brown said to much laughter. He later said he works for Citizens and Southern National Bank.

Trust Company was especially criticized for its announced intention to close its branch in the West End, a predominantly black neighborhood southwest of downtown. After community groups and City Council members protested, the bank said last week that it was reconsidering the decision and would have an announcement Thursday. Bank officials later said the decision has been delayed at least until Friday.

Mr. Mynatt agreed to look into the complaints of several of the witnesses.

Several witnesses said that not all responsibility for housing problems should fall on banks.

"We need to get our major corporations involved," said the Rev. W. Craig Taylor of the South Atlanta Land Trust. "What have they done about housing?" he asked, holding up a can of Coca-Cola as an example.

Mr. Fauntroy said the testimony Thursday would spur the Banking Committee to strengthen laws requiring banks and savings and loans to serve all parts of their communities.


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