Mechanic & Farmers Bank has awarded its 2013 Founders Awards to William A. “Billy” Marsh Jr., a renowned civil rights attorney, and Vivian R. Patterson, a 48-year veteran of M&F Bank.
In 2009, Mechanics and Farmers launched the award to honor and maintain a connection to the institution’s 100+ year heritage. It recognizes individuals or entities that embody the “Founding Principles” based on hallmark values or attributes of the men who established the Bank in 1907, values that have guided the Bank ever since.
Marsh has served as general counsel to M&F Bank since 1972 and to M&F Bancorp, Inc. since its inception in 1999. During his tenure, Marsh provided support and legal guidance to seven M&F Bank presidents. During his impressive legal career, Marsh championed civil rights and personal liberty.
In 2012, the North Carolina Bar Association inducted Marsh into its General Practice Hall of Fame, which honors lawyers “who have made significant contributions to the cause of justice.” Marsh was the first black chairman of the Durham County Board of Elections, as well as the first black chairman of the North Carolina Board of Elections. His portrait is included on the Durham Courthouse Art Wall, which features prominent and influential persons, events and locations in Durham’s history.
Marsh’s most notable contributions to the Civil Rights Movement include representing the “Royal Ice Cream Seven,” Roxboro civil rights activists who defied a city ordinance denying them service at the “white” end of a popular local shop in 1957. The case occurred three years earlier than the more-famous Greensboro Four Sit-in. He was also central in the desegregation proceedings for Durham’s school system.
Patterson began her career with M&F Bank in 1944, rising through the ranks to retire in 1992 as vice president/trust officer.
“Above and beyond” is the phrase commonly used by those who worked with her to describe Patterson’s work ethic, dedication and professionalism. Patterson did not believe in limitations and was determined to prove that she was as capable and talented as anyone at M&F Bank.
She advocated education as a means to advancing one’s personal and professional goals, and set an example in her own life. In addition to attaining her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business from North Carolina Central University, Patterson pursued every opportunity for further education and training in banking. When at first the bank’s Board of Directors declined to cover her tuition to Stonier Graduate School of Banking, she paid her own way, becoming the first woman from M&F to attend. This was at a time when few African Americans and fewer women attained positions of any rank in the banking industry, much less pursued specialized education in the field.
According to former M&F Bank president and 2011 Founders Award recipient Walter Tucker, “We still benefit from her contribution. I wish there were another Vivian Patterson out there, doing what she has done.”