Robert Reed Church Sr. (June 18, 1839 – August 29, 1912) was an African-American entrepreneur, businessman and landowner in Memphis, Tennessee who began his rise during the Civil War. He was the first African-American millionaire in the South. Church built a reputation for great wealth and influence in the business community. .
Robert Church bought his first property in Memphis in 1862 & was well established by 1878-79, the years of devastating yellow fever epidemics which resulted in dramatic depopulation in the city. With property devalued, Church bought numerous businesses as well as undeveloped land, with the long-term view of their appreciation as the city recovered. He built his great wealth on this real estate.
He founded Solvent Savings Bank, the first black-owned bank in the city, which extended credit to blacks so they could buy homes and develop businesses. As a philanthropist, Church used his wealth to develop a park, playground, auditorium and other facilities for the black community, who were excluded by state-enacted racial segregation from most such amenities in the city.
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