Clarence Hall Recognized for Lifetime of Sacrifice with 2015 Herb Wegner Memorial Award
Posted October 20, 2014
NCUF Recognizing Hall with Award for Lifetime Achievement
Posted by www.ncuf.coop
In recognition of his selfless work on behalf of the struggling population of Issaquena County and his lifelong embodiment of credit union values, the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) is pleased to announce Clarence Hall, Jr., CEO of Issaquena County FCU, as the recipient of a 2015 Herb Wegner Memorial Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Hall’s award will be one of four Herb Wegner Memorial Awards presented at a special dinner hosted by NCUF at the Marriott Marquis Washington on March 9th, 2015, on-site at the Credit Union National Association’s 2015 Governmental Affairs Conference. Registration for dinner tickets and sponsorships will be available within the next month on the NCUF website (ncuf.coop).
“Clarence Hall is not a household name in the credit union movement, but his work has been absolutely inspiring in building a better life in a downtrodden part of our nation,” said John Gregoire, Chair of NCUF Wegner Awards Selection Committee and President of The ProCon Group. “Clarence is an unsung hero who has led efforts around financial literacy, civil rights and much more to make a positive impact on those in his community. Roy Bergengren used to say that the credit union’s real job is to prove the practicality of the brotherhood of man and Clarence’s achievements align perfectly with those words.”
An Appreciation for Credit Unions' Thrift-centric Roots
Hall's entire life reflects his belief in and support of credit unions' “people helping people” philosophy. However, he takes that support one step further as he believes in the original motivation of credit unions, which was to promote thrift and provide loans for provident and productive purposes.
Understanding that thrift is an important component of providing financial independence for low-income members, Hall has dedicated half of his lifetime to that mission. Through the years, he made possible countless loans for low-income members to acquire homes, automobiles and immediate personal needs. With every loan or transaction at the credit union came the opportunity for Hall to share his belief in thrift and educate members about sound financial skills. In 44 years, the credit union has never had a single dime missing, and has charged off less than $4,000.
“In a country recognized as one of Mississippi's poorest, Clarence has been very instrumental in helping citizens acquire loans that they had been denied through other traditional financial institutions,” said Spencer Nash, President & CEO of the Delta Foundation. “This afforded residents an opportunity to become home and automobile owners, and increased their current financial statuses.”
A Lifelong Embodiment of the Credit Union Principles
The majority of Hall’s life, both personal and professional, has embodied the cooperative spirit of credit unions. In his work with his credit union and within the overall Issaquena County community, he has embraced the responsibilities of his involvement and championed the power of democratic control. In doing so, he helped members understand the impact of their own participation in a financial cooperative, emphasizing their responsibility to work together and ensure the health and success of the credit union.
Hall also fought for basic rights that allow people and organizations to make their own decisions and operate independently. He shows a cooperative spirit with other people and organizations, always willing to offer help, receive help when needed, and working to instill the cooperative spirit in others.
“Clarence takes advantage of every opportunity, when it comes to the advancement of the hard working and struggling people of this county,” said Linda W. Short, Mayor of Mayersville, Miss. “He is very dedicated to the concept of every person having an equal opportunity to achieve their goals, and reaching their full potential in life.”
Selfless Founder in Pursuit of a Better Future for his Community
In 1969, at the age of 45, Hall chartered the Issaquena County Federal Credit Union – but only after suing the State of Mississippi for denying African Americans the right to obtain charters and set-up non-profit organizations. He chartered the credit union following the lawsuit and worked for 36 years without receiving a single paycheck. Hall has since served as the credit union’s only Chairman as well as CEO and, having celebrated his 90th birthday in August of 2014, still visits the credit union every day.
In 2012, Hall was recognized by the Mississippi Credit Union Association with a spot in the Mississippi Credit Union Hall of Fame, the state’s highest credit union honor.
"Clarence has not only suffered, he fought hard for what we would all consider to be basic rights and equality for all Americans,” said Charles Elliott, President/CEO of the Mississippi Credit Union Association. “He utilized the credit union to provide low-income residents of Issaquena County with financial opportunities they would never have otherwise known. In a variety of ways, he has dedicated his life to providing people an opportunity to improve their own well‐being!”
“Clarence’s efforts to establish a ‘people helping people’ modeled financial institution in a poverty stricken county took a lot of courage, many sacrifices, dedication and hard work,” writes Hall's daughter, Ruth Ann Hall-Evans, Assistant Principal at Mason Elementary School. “My father’s perseverance, beliefs, respect, responsibility, and caring heart, along with the will of God, enabled him to give his time and efforts (without a dime in payment of a salary to himself for almost four decades) to embark on a voluntary journey to build something extraordinary for his people, family, friends, and foes that would have a major impact on life as it is now known in Issaquena County.”
An Insatiable Drive to Instill Change at Local and National Levels
Despite his limited formal education, Hall served as a leader in the Western Line and Delta Area School Districts; appeared before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and the Department of Justice to discuss abolishing the poll tax and literacy test as conditions to vote; and met with Senator Bobby Kennedy to obtain funding for a program to provide children an opportunity to obtain early childhood education.
Believing that all citizens should have the right to vote and the opportunity to serve in elected positions to control their own destiny, Hall became a key leader in the fight to allow African Americans to be elected to public office. He worked as Project Manager for the Delta Ministry, part of the National Council of the Church of Christ, and for the Mississippi Delta Council for Farm Workers – all while seizing constant leadership opportunities within his local community.
When he was recognized with induction into the Mississippi Credit Union Hall of Fame in 2012, he received a five-minute standing ovation. Afterward, there was a 30-minute wait in line to be able to shake his hand and meet him. This had never happened before and has not happened since.
“Today's environment calls for mentors and leaders capable of working in concert with others, able to inspire and contribute without dominating any undertakings,” said Sherida M. Ray, Bookkeeper at Issaquena County FCU. “It is this extraordinary skill that Clarence brings to every project he undertakes. It is his extraordinary style and poise in contributing his best to all of his undertakings that creates an environment that draws the very best from the people of this county.”
About the Herb Wegner Memorial Awards:
The awards are named in honor of the late Credit Union National Association CEO Herb Wegner, whose tireless dedication, innovative ideas and deeds truly revolutionized the ways that credit unions serve their communities. The awards that bear Wegner’s name recognize his spirit of “innovative, creative, risk-taking” leadership. View past award recipients here.
About the National Credit Union Foundation (ncuf.coop):
The National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) is the charitable arm of the US credit union movement and works as a catalyst to improve people’s financial lives through credit unions. Through NCUF grants and programs, credit unions provide widespread financial education, create greater access to affordable financial services, and empower more consumers to save, build assets, and own homes. Donations to the Foundation enable credit unions to help their members reach life-changing goals and achieve financial freedom.