Lisa Gates Interview

View Lisa Gates Video Transcript

– [Interviewer] Was he what Chairman Ameritus by then?

– He was Chairman Ameritus by that point. Yeah.

– [Instructor] When was that?

– 2009 Yeah, so he put his whole heart and soul into Gateway Bank. And just was so very committed to the very end.

– [Instructor] What do you recall as a child what your father said about this when he was considering this, and formulating this, and launching this initiative?

– Well you know I was quite young then so, but again he did speak about the need of, You know Gateway Bank was the only black owned bank in the state of Missouri. And so again for those co-founders to be so committed, it was just amazing. And again, he always spoke about the lack of financial institutions and products available to the black community and loans. They needed loans, therefore Gateway Bank. It was actually Gateway National Bank at that time.

– [Interviewer] What’d he say? Did he talk about those things just in terms of injustice, or there needed to be a solution, or what?

– There needed to be a solution and there was an injustice. Both, and so I think George Montgomery and Melvin Harrington began the charter and they all came together. There was quite a number of local African American businessmen that came together to create Gateway National Bank.

– [Interviewer] Pioneers?

– Exactly, courageous Pioneers absolutely.

– [Interviewer] And at a time that there was a price to pay.

– At at time that there was a price to pay. You know, I think it was in 63 that Jefferson Bank had the sit in. So the timing was amazing.

– [Interviewer] I mean at a time where there were clearly all around the country consequences for people who didn’t like them.

– Absolutely.

– [Interviewer] I mean this was no small undertaking.

– Not at all. Not at all. It was historical as you will note.

– [Interviewer] Were they at risk?

– Looking back on history, I think they would may have been at risk but I don’t particularly remember any stories of any negativity or

– [Interviewer] Any threats or anything?

– Any threats or anything of that sort. No.

– [Interviewer] Well so you put in some time at the bank.

– I did. I was employed with Gateway Bank for 14 years. And it was quite an honor to be a part of Gateway Bank and be able to work with my father. Had an amazing staff. Fabulous Presidents over the years. All of them had the same passion for serving the community and providing financial education for the community. I worked in customer service. I can tell you, I have so many fond memories of Gateway Bank. I think we were the only bank that served coffee and popcorn everyday. And we served doughnuts, on the first and the third of every month. We would have our customers to come in, of course, to handle their finances but to just come in and just talk. Its like we were an extended family. It was just amazing. I can remember, I was coming to work this morning thinking about some of the stories at Gateway. One of our customers was a member of the St. Louis Symphony. Every time she would come into the bank, she would bring her violin when she made her transactions at the teller window. Well this one particular day, and I think this was about time Donnelle Reed was president. She actually opened up her case and performed in the lobby. I’m saying it was amazing. I mean how often does that happen? That’s what I’m saying is just great memories. And to this day, I still have people that will stop me on the street and just like “Hey aren’t you Cliff Gate’s Daughter?” I’m like yeah. “Oh my god Gateway bank gave us our first loan for our first home” And I had a young lady stop me the other day, she said her father passed the bank everyday going to work. She said “Your father came out and said Hey Gateway Bank is starting savings accounts for kids. I know you have children and we want the children to come in and start a savings account” She was one of those children. She told me that every weekend religiously, she would come in and go to the teller window, and make her little deposit, and get her little receipt. So you know, it’s very cool that after all these years you still here great stories and stories that you never knew about. It’s rewarding

– [Interviewer] So your father was out on the sidewalk, marketing savings accounts?

– Absolutely That’s a community bank for you.

– [Interviewer] You said a lot of the presidents were like minded like your father.

– Oh my gosh, yeah. I think a lot of them had that same vision and same concern for the community: providing financial services. Wonderful wonderful presidents that really really took the bank at heart and did everything that they could during their term for the community. I know Donnelle Reed would even have his office on the lobby and he had an open door policy so people could always come in and chat with him. Think about it, you can just walk in, and chat, and share a doughnut with the president of the bank. That’s why I say we were like an extended family in the community.

– [Interviewer] How did that happen that those president were of a mind, an opinion, an attitude similar to your father’s?

– It was a blessing actually. I don’t know if that intentionally how they were intentionally picked or not but it was wonderful.

– [Interviewer] Do you think he played a role in that?

– My father? I think he did. Yeah, I think the entire board did, absolutely.

– [Interviewer] That’s probably pretty unusual, you know what I mean, to have a string of people. Because you get a new president, the organization goes a different way.

– No. We’ve had a consistent presidents that had the utmost concern for the community. So we were very blessed in that aspect.

– [Interviewer] So what else sticks out in your mind about your memories, particularly, considering that you worked there for 14 years? I mean you had experience and exposure there as a child but then was it your first job?

– No that wasn’t my first job, but it was one of the most rewarding. Because as I said, even today I still run into some of my old customers. And they talk about how they’ve never had another banking experience since Gateway that was so rewarding, and never felt so personal. You know never had such a personal relationship with any other bank than the days of Gateway Bank. So it makes you feel good. It makes you feel really good.

– [Interviewer] How’d you feel when you heard it was closing?

– Well needless to say, that was a very sad sad time and my father had already passed. You know, it was just a very sad time that Gateway didn’t thrive. That was during a time that there were a lot of bank closures. When the people from St Louis Community Credit Union called me and told me they were opening up a Gateway Branch, Oh my gosh. I was just elated. I thought that was just amazing. And, I worked with the St. Louis City Treasurer’s office. I’m the director of the Office of Financial Empowerment. And so we have interactions with a lot of the banks and credit unions in the metropolitan area. St. Louis Community Credit Union has sponsored a couple of our initiatives; we’ve worked with them before. Oh my gosh, they are I think just such a perfect fit for that community because they have shown their commitment to the community. They’ve provided financial literacy programs for our city employees as well as for the public. They really go over and beyond for the community.

– [Interviewer] And the name?

– Will be St. Louis Community Credit Union Gateway Branch.

– [Interviewer] What about that?

– That’s amazing. And I think the co-founders will be so pleased or would be so pleased that their vision and legacy is being carried on.

– [Interviewer] That would mean something to a lot of people huh?

– Oh absolutely. You know St. Louis or Missouri has one of the highest number of un-banked households. So I think their presence in the community there will make a huge difference and we’re looking forward to that.

– [Interviewer] At least what do St. Louis Credit Union’s presence mean to the community with this investment into property, and carrying on the name, and some of the memorabilia, and things of that nature that you’re talking about?

– What does it mean to me?

– [Interviewer] What does it mean to the community?

– Oh. I think they’ll be very very pleased. As I said, we were like a family over there and it’s a great community over there. There’s so many families that don’t have transportation to go to other financial institutions. There’s so many great families over there that are needing someone to just take a moment and provide financial literacy and guidance. St. Louis Community Credit Union, as I said, just really goes over and beyond and does their part on the community.

– [Interviewer] You’re not the first person to mention financial literacy, is that what you were saying?

– Mhmm

– [Interviewer] Yeah. It sounds like that is a priority for the credit union and was a priority for Gateway.

– Yeah. Absolutely, ongoing. As I said, we have so many un-banked households here in Missouri. And so it’s so important to address that issue right now, in order for our families to provide better for our community overall and their growth. So yeah.