U-1105 Interview with Saundra Scales

This interview focused on the life of Saundra Scales, who at the time of the interview was preparing to retire as chief executive officer of First Legacy credit union. Key topics include growing up in Salisbury and Charlotte, N.C., and the unpredictability and heavy responsibilities of her childhood (mother and both grandmothers dying within a year of each other). These years also included her father's struggle to provide working overtime as janitor, and her father's insistence that his daughters get a college education. Ms. Scales worked to help pay for her younger sister to go to college, with her first job at Mechanics and Farmers Bank. She advanced from teller to bookkeeper to supervisor to loan officer before hitting ceiling at that bank, Ms. Scales recalled. She described the unstable nature of physical space and early credit unions, the operation of School Workers out of Scales’ home, and conflict with the city over zoning. She described the completion of a new building, as well as gender relations in the workplace and with clients. Ms. Scales also recalled racial and gender frameworks in larger credit union networks. She met her second husband through the credit union school, but she also remembered divisions between eastern North Carolina and Charlotte area, the isolated nature of individual African American-founded credit unions and the role of Support Center in bridging this gap. She described James Gillam of St. Luke Credit Union and his founding role, and regional distrust of Charlotte residents, along with racial divisions between credit unions, clashes with regulators over loan-granting, and resistance by Scales and others of formulaic credit score. The credit unions sought to rely on qualities of personal connections, trust, respectability, sense of community, and local networks in loan granting. The interview also covered mergers with area credit unions—Friendship Missionary Baptist Church Credit Union, Rowan-Iredell Credit Union, and Compact Credit Union, Eugene Grigsby and founding of School Workers, and Ms. Scales' retirement and comments on future of community credit unions. This interview was one of several interviews conducted by the SOHP for a project on the history of minority credit unions in North Carolina.

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