Memphis Pushes To Level The Playing Field For Black Entrepreneurs

MEMPHIS, Tenn. ― Darrell Cobbins’ grandfather was a real estate man.

Samuel Peace opened Peace Realty in 1959, a company whose legacy includes building Memphis’ first neighborhood for middle-income African-Americans ― the 600-home Lakeview Gardens subdivision.

“I grew up seeing him go to work six days a week. He had six children, a wife that didn’t work and he provided for all of them,” Cobbins said. “From an entrepreneurship standpoint, I’ve seen a great model for success ― especially black entrepreneurship.”

Shortly before Peace died, Cobbins’ mother showed him a 1967 edition of the Memphis Press-Scimitar that included the headline “Negroes Climb Ladder To Success.” The piece profiled 10 black businessmen of the era, including Benjamin Hooks, a civil rights attorney who ran his own law firm before becoming the first black criminal court judge in a court of record in Tennessee; A.W. Willis, another local civil rights attorney who opened the city’s first integrated law firm and founded Mutual Federal Savings and Loan in 1955; Antonio Maceo Walker, whose family founded the Universal Life Insurance company and Tri-State Bank, which supported black entrepreneurs that had been denied loans; and Peace.

Cobbins is also a pioneering black entrepreneur. He founded Universal Commercial Real Estate in 2007. It’s Memphis’ first black-owned commercial real estate company, and its name is a nod to Walker’s company, which Cobbins calls “the quintessential example of everything great about the black business legacy in Memphis.” He keeps a portrait of his grandfather hanging in his office.

“I wanted to make sure that I had that to look at every day, something to remind me of that legacy,” Cobbins said.

Read the entire piece here.

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