Herb Wegner Winner Fought Charter Battle
Clarence Hall, one of this year’s four Herb Wegner Award recipients, took the state of Mississippi to court to win the right for African Americans to obtain charters and set up not-for-profit organizations.
The legal battle led to the state ruling that Hall could establish a charter for the Mayersville, Mississippi-based Issaquena County Federal Credit Union in 1969.
Hall, who still serves as board chair and CEO of the $1.2 million, 462-member credit union will be honored at the National Credit Union Foundation’s annual Herb Wegner Award dinner March 9, 2015.
Hall chartered the credit union following the lawsuit and worked for 36 years without receiving a single paycheck, according to the NCUF.
Having celebrated his 90th birthday in August, he still visits the credit union every day.
In 2012, Hall was recognized by the Mississippi Credit Union Association with a spot in the Mississippi Credit Union Hall of Fame, the state’s highest credit union honor.
“Clarence Hall is not a household name in the credit union movement, but his work has been absolutely inspiring in building a better life in a downtrodden part of our nation,” John Gregoire, chair of the NCUF Wegner Awards selection committee.
“Clarence is an unsung hero who has led efforts around financial literacy, civil rights and much more to make a positive impact on those in his community,” Gregoire said. “Roy Bergengren used to say that the credit union’s real job is to prove the practicality of the brotherhood of man and Clarence’s achievements align perfectly with those words.”
The NCUF in particular praised Hall’s ongoing emphasis on thrift as a foundation for educating the credit union’s members in sound financial practices.
“In a country recognized as one of Mississippi's poorest, Clarence has been very instrumental in helping citizens acquire loans that they had been denied through other traditional financial institutions,” Spencer Nash, president/CEO of the Delta Foundation. “This afforded residents an opportunity to become home and automobile owners, and increased their current financial statuses.”
Hall served as a leader in the Western Line and Delta Area School Districts, appeared before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and the Department of Justice to discuss abolishing the poll tax and literacy test as conditions to vote; and met with the former Sen. Bobby Kennedy (D-Mass.) to obtain funding for a program to provide children an opportunity to obtain early childhood education, according to NCUF.
He also became a key leader in the fight to allow African Americans to be elected to public office. He worked as project manager for the Delta Ministry, part of the National Council of the Church of Christ, and for the Mississippi Delta Council for Farm Workers.
“Today's environment calls for mentors and leaders capable of working in concert with others, able to inspire and contribute without dominating any undertakings,” Sherida Ray, bookkeeper at Issaquena County FCU.
“It is this extraordinary skill that Clarence brings to every project he undertakes. It is his extraordinary style and poise in contributing his best to all of his undertakings that creates an environment that draws the very best from the people of this county,” she added.