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Alpha Rho Taps Citizens Trust, Whose Legendary Past Pres., I. Owen Funderburg, Joined in Spring 1944

By APCAA Staff

In a move that demonstrates the Alpha Rho Chapter Alumni Association's resolve to work and conduct business in the community where it all began in 1924, the association has selected historic Citizens Trust Bank as their financial partner for their upcoming Centennial Celebration and Scholarship Consortium in January, 2024. The two organization's have longtime ties — whereas alumni members of the association have led the bank both from near bankruptcy into solvency, and also into current day prominence.

"The alignment of our two corporations in this milestone anniversary simply made good sense from the jump," said APCAA President BMaynard Scarborough. "We're part of fraternity that encourages direct support for businesses that serve to uplift communities of color around the nation. So the choice was clear." Today's announcement will be followed closely by the unveiling of a monumental partnership that will provide permanent archival storage and display of artifacts from APCAA's 1,242 members dating back to January 1924.

Banking executive Ilon Owen Funderburg (Alpha Rho Spring 1944) is credited with rescuing the third largest black-owned bank in the United States, Citizens Trust Bank of Atlanta, from bankruptcy in the 1970s. Funderburg died in 2002, some ten years after his retirement as president. The Georgia native was “the dean of minority bankers in the country," board chair of Citizens Trust, Herman J. Russell, told Atlanta Journal-Constitution writer Kay Powell. Funderburg’s longtime colleague also told the newspaper that the past president was “not just a good minority banker,” declaring that “I would put him up against any president of any other bank in the country of our size.”

Born Ilon Owen Funderburg in 1924 in Monticello, Georgia, the same year Alpha Rho Chapter was chartered, the future banker graduated from Morehouse College in 1947. He spent a year at the University of Michigan before beginning his career at Mechanics and Farmers’ Bank of Durham, North Carolina, as a teller. In 1959 he became the first African American to complete Rutgers University’s Graduate School of Banking program. For a number of years after that, Funderburg served as executive vice president and chief executive officer of the Gateway National Bank in St. Louis, Missouri. He was hired by Citizens Trust Bank in Atlanta in 1974.

Funderburg was responsible for taking Citizens Trust into the modern age. When he arrived, there were no computers in use, nor any form of data processing at the bank. He introduced in-store branches and automatic teller machines for Citizens Trust customers. In 2021, Citizens Trust Bank celebrated its 100th year of existence.

When Funderburg was lured back to Atlanta from the St. Louis bank, he purchased a 23-acre farm where he raised quarterhorses, tended his vegetable garden, and shared his cooking skills with his friends and fellow Morehouse College Alumni.

Before Funderburg became President of Citizens Trust Bank:

During the struggle of the civil rights movement as Black Americans fought for equal rights under the law in the United States, Citizens Trust Bank continued to mobilize its support for the community it served. Citizens Trust Bank opened its first branch, the Westside Branch. The Westside financial center remains open today as the bank’s main financial center location and a pillar of strength in the southwest Atlanta community. To help chart the bank’s course through the turbulent 1950s and 1960s, two legendary African American icons joined the board of directors, Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, president of Morehouse College and Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Sr.

Citizens Trust became the first Black–owned bank to become a member of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. In 1948 Citizens Trust became the first Black–owned bank to join the Federal Reserve Bank.

The Legacy of Alpha Rho Alums' leadership engagement with the nation's 3rd largest Black-owed bank continues into the 21st century, highlighted by the June 2021 appointment of Brother C. Howie Hodges II (Spring 1980) to the Citizens Bancshares Corporation Board of Directors.

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