Samuel L. Foggie wanted the United National Bank of Washington built on a solid foundation of community support. So, when organizing the institution in 1964, Mr. Foggie and his co-founders scoured inner-city Washington in search of investors -- eventually selling stock to 1,200 citizens at $10 a share.
''The people felt it was their bank,'' says Foggie, president of United National. When the institution opened, ''my desk was right in the middle of the lobby. I knew every customer that came in that bank.''
Of the 46 black-owned banks in the United States, United National is the sixth largest, with assets of $57.5 million.
In its early years, the institution catered to an underserved market: home improvement loans and mortgages for residents of the largely black northeastern section of the city. As white banks discovered this business could be lucrative, United National had to broaden its area of expertise. The bank now counts among its customers several Fortune 500 companies and has expanded to five branches -- including a showpiece in Washington's swank International Square.
Like many other black-owned banks, United National has had to juggle its ideals with the hard reality of running a business. Over its first three years, the bank lost $500,000, with much of the loss caused by well-meant but shaky loans. Since then, the bank has turned solidly profitable.