James C. Napier, politician, lawyer and owner of the first Black-owned bank in Tennessee, was born in Nashville on this day in 1845.
Napier was born a slave, but he and his family were freed when he was three years old. By 1864, Napier had become involved in politics and worked alongside Congressman John Mercer Langston on behalf of newly freed African-Americans.
Napier pursued his interest in law at Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he earned a law degree in 1872. He returned to Nashville in 1878 to become the first African-American to preside over the Nashville City Council, where he served until 1886.
In 1904, Napier founded the Nashville One-Cent Savings Bank, the first bank in Tennessee owned by an African-American. He also served as Register of the United States Treasury under President William H. Taft from 1911 to 1913. He died on April 21, 1940, at age 94.
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