Liberty And Profit For All

By stepping in when other banks gave up, Liberty Bank & Trust has created a profit centera profit center for Louisiana's black community

came closer to joining the scrapheap than he’d care to remember. “We lost all of the profits we had made in the previous years plus some,” he recalls. “It was a bad time.”

Fast forward 10 years and Liberty is not only solvent again but in full- fledged expansion mode. The bank had assets last year of $ 134.8 million, a 5% increase from 1995. Liberty’s total capital for the year was $10.1 million and deposits tallied up to $122.4 million. Its total loans saw a 10% increase to $81.3 million and the bank now has eight branches spread across New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

Just as significant, Liberty has been able to accomplish its remarkable turnaround while remaining an impact player to its 35,000 customers and the surrounding community. Whether it’s sponsoring the local track meet, which offers college scholarships, or fund-raisers for the United Negro College Fund, Liberty has become a key player in the community. For over 25 years, it has had a reputation as one of the strongest financial institutions in its region. For its successful expansion efforts, for being a long-standing community player and being among the leading FHA and VA mortgage lenders, Liberty Bank of New Orleans is BLACK ENTERPRISE s 1997 Financial Company of the Year.

New Orleans is a dangerous place, but in a good way. Bourbon Street sets the tone for much of the city’s dark, yet dramatic flair. It starts with the throbbing beat of music pulsing from the many jazz dubs lining the narrow corridor of the “Street. ” The mood is amplified by the hawkish vendors selling overpriced T-shirts as well as the numerous bars and risque “cabarets” scattered throughout the strip. Bourbon Street is the seductive “must-see” attraction for the 10 million tourists who rush through the city annually. And although perceptions may vary, many come away thinking of New Orleans as a city where it’s all right to be a little bad.

A child of New Orleans, McDonald says the city has changed in many ways since he was a youth. But, it’s also stayed very much the same. “I’ve been here all of my life and there aren’t too many other places that I’d care to live,” he says.

The son of a waiter, McDonald worked his way through school tending lawns and serving as a steward at parties. At the time, he says, the very idea of banking was unthinkable. Instead, his early goal was to become a bricklayer, one of the few jobs available to blacks at the time. “Black folks in this area were either school teachers, worked in the post office or they were bricklayers or carpenters,” he says. “Those were the professions available for us.”

His perceptions started to change in the early 1960s, after working his way through Straight Business College and Louisiana State University’s non-degree program for bankers. In 1966, International City Bank tapped McDonald for a part-time job. Six months later, he was working full time. His rise there was furious

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