ABOVE: Harris County Commisioners Rodney Ellis and Adrian Garcia join Harris County Treasurer Dylan Osborne and Unity National Bank President and CEO Michael Pearson at Unity National Bank’s Third Ward location to announce the historic partnership.
Becomes first county in Texas to partner with a minority-owned bank
African American banking institutions began opening over the United States during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, and while many of those banking institutions have since closed their doors, Houston’s Unity National Bank remains open.
Unity National Bank, located in Houston’s historic Third Ward community, is the only African American owned banking institution in the state of Texas.
On January 6th, the leadership of Unity National Bank held a press conference to announce an exciting new partnership with Harris County that will further help the minority institution’s goal to serve the community with financial services. Harris County announced they were beginning the new relationship with an initial $5 million injection of capital.
Harris County Commissioners Rodney Ellis and Adrian Garcia were joined by Harris County Treasurer Dylan Osborne and Unity National Bank President and CEO Michael Pearson at Unity National Bank’s Third Ward location to announce the historic partnership.
“Harris County’s investment with Unity National Bank will further assist this financial institution’s mission of providing banking needs for low- and moderate-income communities in Third Ward and surrounding areas,” said Commissioner Ellis. “This historic investment will also help contribute to Unity’s fulfillment of its vision of creating opportunities and improvements in the African American and underserved communities that are primarily served by the bank.”
This is the first time any Texas county has partnered with a minority-owned bank for services.
“Harris County has ignored the needs of minority-owned and small businesses for too long. I am happy to follow the lead of this Commissioners Court and include a minority-owned bank in our banking needs,” Treasurer Osborne remarked. “We are fortunate to have a great partner in Unity National Bank located right here in Harris County. The beauty of this is we did not have to reinvent the wheel. We just had to make it a point to reach out to minority-owned banks and offer them a seat at the table.”
The entities believe this partnership sends a message to underserved communities who may have avoided keeping their money in a bank account, which could create pivotal opportunities for their families.
“Minority-owned banks play a critical role in opening doors of economic opportunity and stability for the communities they serve. Some in minority communities may not feel comfortable, safe, or maybe even ‘worthy’ of going into a big-name bank,” said Commissioner Garcia. “However, if they see an institution in their community that is led by someone in their community, and that their local government legitimizes them with its business, that can make all the difference in their financial well-being for generations.”
Unity National Bank President and CEO Michael Pearson believes this first-of-its-kind partnership between a minority-owned banking institution and Texas’ biggest county is a game-changer.
“We are delighted to be a part of this historic moment. We applaud Harris County for its leadership,” said Pearson. “The partnership between Unity National Bank and Harris County will extend this bank’s primary role and community-based mission to support economic development by providing financial products and services, including financial education and literacy to meet the needs of the communities we are honored and trusted to serve.”
Unity National Bank was originally founded as Riverside National Bank, led by local Black doctors and lawyers in 1963 and was later chartered in 1985. In February 1989, through a series of transactions and diligent efforts, Unity National Bank was acquired from Bay Bancshares by local minority leaders, including Dr. Kase Lawal, who serves as the Chairman of the Board.
They have done many tremendous things since their founding, and their leadership has sought to maintain their original focus and commitment to the vision of providing banking services to historically underserved businesses and individuals, and developing the bank into a dynamic banking franchise, serving a diverse customer base.
In addition to its inner-city headquarters located in the heart of Houston’s historic Third Ward community, Unity National Bank has a branch in Missouri City, Texas, located in Fort Bend County, which has been open since 1998. In March 2018, Unity National Bank opened a branch in Atlanta, Georgia, with the hopes of allowing Unity National Bank’s rich legacy to continue in a community well-positioned to support and utilize a new minority bank.