On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. speaks with Dr. Edward D. Irons, noted educator, financial and business executive, and author of “Only By Grace.”
Irons spent more than sixty years as a university educator; a business, government, and educational executive; a management and financial consultant to business, banks, and to the U.S. and foreign governments including the United Nations Economic Commission on Africa. He served on a number of corporate boards and numerous nonprofit organizations. Four Atlanta mayors, three Georgia governors, and one Oklahoma governor appointed him to boards and commissions.
In 1960 he earned a Ph.D. in Finance from Harvard University Graduate School of Business, before it was common or acceptable for African Americans to be admitted to Ivy League Schools.
In 1964 he became the principal organizer and first president of Riverside National Bank in Houston Texas. The bank group became the first national charter to be granted to African Americans in this country during the preceding 40 years, and in the process, a renaissance of minority bank ownership in the nation was initiated, which was his vision. Irons grew up in a small, segregated Oklahoma town, of which less than ten percent were African American.
“Only by Grace” chronicles the life and achievements of Irons, whose accomplishments are a testament to the heights one can reach through faith, commitment, and true dedication.
Irons was recruited by Howard University in Washington D.C., to organize a business school. With the help of students and faculty, the business school came to fruition in 1970.
Irons organized the first full program of the National Bankers Association, serving as its First Executive Director, and with the help of the Reverend Jesse Jackson, president of Operation Push, he launched a $100-million Bank Deposit Development Program for minority banks. During that time, Jesse Jackson approached Jim Roche, chairman of General Motors Corporation, and vehemently requested that GMC begin granting automobile franchises to African Americans, which was a historical move. Consequently, automobile franchises became the largest segment of minority business in the U.S. in the years that followed.
After receiving his doctorate, he vowed to return to the South and ‘give back,’ rejecting a number of major corporate offers including the Mead Corporation, a multinational paper manufacturer which, at that time, had fifteen subsidiaries around the world. Irons also declined an offer from Chase Manhattan Bank.