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SEATTLE – James C. Purnell, a long-time advocate of financial equality for African-Americans, died on March 24 after being hospitalized for chest pains. Purnell, 84, helped establish the Sentinel Credit Union in 1958, which provided financial services for an underserved Central District community here. The credit union later merged with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s credit union, which was absorbed by another institution that became 1st Security Bank of Washington. Purnell’s youngest child, Michelle Purnell-Hepburn, is vice president and CFO of Seattle Metropolitan Credit Union. Beyond credit unions, Purnell was also a pioneer in the banking world. In 1968, he, along with his wife, Mardine, helped launch Liberty Bank, Seattle’s first African-American-owned bank. Purnell served as its president from 1972 to 1986. In 1976, Purnell was elected president of the National Bankers Association, a professional group of minority-owned financial institutions. The following year, he was invited to meet with President Jimmy Carter to discuss minorities’ disparities within the American banking system. A memorial service was held on March 28. In addition to his wife and daughters, Purnell is survived by his sons-in-law, former Seattle Mayor Wes Uhlman and Michael Hepburn. [email protected]

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