Recognized trailblazer Aubrey Lee, Sr. , the longtime President of the National Bank of Detroit (NBD) who rose to become one of the highest ranking African Americans in banking during his career, has taught many successful banking and business executives about the power of honor, integrity and investment in Detroit.
And the lessons he carefully instilled in the many professionals he mentored throughout his 40-year banking career will continue to reap dividends today, tomorrow and into future.
Although Lee is credited for many bricks and mortar "cornerstone" initiatives in our community, his reach extended far beyond the many physical edifices he supported.
His unwavering faith in Detroit and its citizenry challenged banker's long-held beliefs that minority candidates were too high-risk to bank on. Indeed, before Lee entered the banking profession in 1957, it was nearly impossible for minorities to get an appointment with a banker, let alone a loan.
Once funded, never forgotten seemed to be Lee's motto. The young banker established an impressive track record, shepparding even the smallest of fledging minority business enterprises to their fullest growth potential, long after any of his peers were watching.
Lee hired the (then) Detroit Piston player Dave Bing during his tenure at NBD and was credited for shaping the career paths of hundreds of young African Americans.
He did right by Detroiters and they, in turn, did right by him.
If you look back, you will find that Lee had a hand in building the cornerstones of this community —from our churches and neighborhoods to our most respected business enterprises.
Often too busy for applause or recognition, it seems fitting that the Detroit Regional Chamber chose to bestow its lifelong leadership award on retiree Aubrey Lee, Sr. at its 3rd Annual Leadership Detroit Awards.
The event, which celebrates and honors program alumni who have created positive change in our community could not have picked a more appropriate gentleman to honor.
Detroit is a better place to do business because of Lee's many efforts. And we are all better off as a result of the many personal sacrifices he made to ensure that we'd do better than just "getting by."
Aubrey Lee, Sr. established impressive benchmarks that are worthy of our continued applause and gratitude. Well done, Aubrey. Well done.
Aubrey W. Lee, Sr. has been a banking professional since 1957, advancing his career from teller to serving as the president of National Bank of Detroit (NBD) in Troy, followed by a stint as the senior vice president and head of the Municipal Banking Group prior to his retirement. He later became an advisor to the president of Fifth Third Bank.
A pioneer in the banking industry, Mr. Lee was the first African American to hold the titles of branch manager and lender at NBD, and was one of the first black vice presidents of a major U.S. bank in 1979. He has been instrumental in the hiring, developing and promoting of minority bankers in Southeast Michigan. He was responsible for approving a majority of the loans that were made to minority-owned businesses in Detroit during his tenure at NBD.
Editor's Note: Jackie Berg is the CMO of the Michigan Chronicle Newspaper and former publisher of the Michigan Minority Business Development Council's (MMBDC) Network Magazine.