Boutte to be eulogized

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Alvin J. Boutte Sr., co-founder and former Chairman and CEO of Independence Bank, the nation’s biggest Black-owned bank, will be eulogized April 14 at St. Clothilde Church, 8430 S. Calumet. A funeral mass will follow a 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. visita

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Alvin J. Boutte Sr., co-founder and former Chairman and CEO of Independence Bank, the nation’s biggest Black-owned bank, will be eulogized April 14 at St. Clothilde Church, 8430 S. Calumet. A funeral mass will follow a 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. visitation.

Boutte was born in Lake Charles, La. Oct. 10, 1929 to Arthur H. Boutte and Adorea Darensbourg Boutte. He was the youngest of ten brothers and sisters (Arthur Jr. [Jack], Elliot, Edith, Nellie, Ralph, Lionel, Marion, El-Cid, Theresa) all of whom preceded him in death. Growing up, his mother and other family members called him “Vδno” (Creole for “piece of gold”).

Boutte attended Sacred Heart grammar and high school as did each of his brothers and sisters before him through the heart of the Great Depression. He continued his education under the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament at Xavier University in New Orleans, La. on a basketball scholarship. While attending the University he met his future wife, Barbara Gonzaque, a music major. Always the entrepreneur, Boutte established businesses in college to service the needs of the student body. One such business was a laundry pick up and payment collection business for the male students. Boutte completed his degree in Pharmacy, which would allow him to use his entrepreneurial skills and work for himself. During his University years, he met other like-minded men including John Stroger, Wilford “Moose” Bonner, Ernest “Dutch” Morial, Richard Gumble and Talifero Johnson. As a smaller contingent of these men often discussed their future plans “sitting on the levee”, they decided to move to Chicago where a Xavier track coach, Ralph Metcalfe, had already established himself as Alderman of the 3rd Ward.

Upon graduating from Xavier served in the still segregated U.S. Army, where he successfully completed Officer’s Candidate School (OCS). He attained the rank of Captain and was stationed in Germany. After two years, Boutte was Honorably Discharged and was off to Chicago with his wife and daughters, Janice and Jeanette. The family joined several Darensbourg families already residing in Chicago.

Upon migrating to Chicago, Boutte quickly acquired Lakeside Drug Store at 47th and Lake Park Avenue, which he purchased with a line of credit from Sealtest Dairy Corporation. He soon parlayed this one store into a chain of stores located at 47th & Lake Park Avenue, Madison & Western, 79th & Cottage Grove and 79th & Michigan Avenue (Park Manor Medical Center – which also housed the Cortez-Peters Business College). With his base of operation on 47th Street and the 3rd Ward Democratic Organization, he added to his Xavier core other young business people including George Johnson, John Johnson, Anderson Schweich, Marshall Bynum Sr., Neil Harris and others.

He enhanced his contributions to Xavier by donating funds to assist in the building of a new pharmacy school for Xavier.

In 1964 Boutte, George Johnson, Marshall Bynum, Sr., Henry Forte, Edward Boschell, Henry Hervey, John Skunstadter, Morris Polk and William Scanlon established Independence Bank of Chicago with an initial investment of $800,000. Other early investors and directors included Cirilo McSween and Robert Bacon. The bank was established to service the needs of the Chatham Avalon community and was dedicated to provide excellent service to its customers and the professional development of its employees. Boutte was most proud of the development of his staff to become presidents of other minority banks across the country and to hold executive positions.

Always civic minded, Boutte helped advance the fledging Civil Rights Movement by repeatedly contributing money to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Boutte convened a meeting of Chicago’s African-American business leaders and raised $55,000.

You cannot measure the benefits that Independence Bank provided in terms of service – the families that had their quality of life improved, the communities that were economically uplifted and physically rehabilitated, and the individuals who were given the chance to succeed and make their marks in the world because Boutte cared. He believed that Fortune 500 companies were needed to help make the bank profitable, therefore, he cultivated relationships to create deposit and loan facilities. He also believed in using technology to expand the services the bank could offer. The bank was selected to operate the Foreign Currency Operation at O’Hare Airport.

Boutte was a key contributor with the group of businessmen who brought Nelson Mandela to Chicago in the summer of 1993 to raise money for his ANC political organization after he was freed. In the same year, Boutte was inducted into the Junior Achievement Chicago Businessmen Hall of Fame.

Boutte was Chairman of Fulcrum Venture Capital Corporation, which was an early government backed venture fund established to provide growth equity to create long standing minority owned businesses.

An astute, highly respected businessman, Boutte served on the Board of Directors of Johnson Products Co., Chicago Metropolitan Mutual Assurance Co., Midway Airlines, Rainbow Push (preceded by Operation Breadbasket and Operation PUSH), the Chicago Urban League, the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, Blue Cross Blue Shield Illinois, Junior Achievement and Chatham Business Association among many others. He was appointed to the Chicago Board of Education by former Mayor Richard J. Daley, and served two terms as one of the first African-Amer
ican board members. He received accolades and awards and was proudest of being Co-Chair of the Chicago Urban League Golden Fellowship gala. His business acumen was known nationally and internationally. In the 1980s he and the Rev. Jesse Jackson took a trip to the Middle East to learn how African-American businesses and business owners could participate with African businesses.

Boutte also had a true love for the community. His attributes made him one of the nation’s top business leaders that served on Presidential committees under Presidents Johnson, Carter, Clinton, Reagan and Bush. He was in all communities. He was the First Black to do many things. He was a member of the Chicago Economic Club, etc.

He believed that the best role that he could serve during the civil rights era was a financier to the movement. He helped found and served on the boards of Civil Rights Organizations. He provided bail money when Dr. King and others were arrested. He paid for hospital stays, helped support the widows and children of slain leaders. If you were having a fundraiser, you wanted Boutte to be the Chairman. He and Coretta Scott King maintained a friendship until her death.

Alvin Boutte, Sr. is survived by his wife, Barbara, his daughters, Janice Boutte and Jeanette Simpson, his sons, Gregory and Alvin, Jr., his four grandchildren and four great grandchildren and a host of relatives, friends and admirers.

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