Some names become a brand, and in the Edison area of Miami, Edward Duffie Sr. commanded attention, if not outright awe.
Here was a man who, with no college degree or executive experience, worked his way up from bank security guard to bank vice president at the former Capital Bank branch in Liberty City. During his tenure, he helped businesses in Northwest Miami-Dade start with more than $25 million in loans.
“He has led such a distinguished life and has such extraordinary accomplishments, it has been a wonderful legacy and example for the grandchildren,’ said Duffie’s daughter-in-law Cecily Robinson-Duffie.
When Duffie died at 77 on Friday, the family gathered the seven grandchildren.
“We sat and talked with them Sunday morning about their grandfather and what the name Duffie means in the community,” Robinson-Duffie said. “It’s such a great name to have to live up to; a great responsibility that comes with that name. They look at their grandparent as grandpa and sometimes don’t understand all of the outside accomplishments and endeavors that that person has been a part of. For them to reconcile the funny side and the humorous side of him with all the professional accomplishments is quite interesting.”
And, for the family, a learning experience.
Duffie’s story in banking went back even further than the family initially realized.
As a high school student in Perry, Ga., where he was born in the Houston County region as the youngest of five children, Duffie dusted counters and vacuumed floors at the Perry Loan and Savings Bank after school.
“Little tasks there,” Robinson-Duffie said. “That’s when he first began to dream about someday managing a bank.”
But young black people in the South, amid racial segregation laws of the period, couldn’t spend too much time on dreams.
“That kind of work really interested me back then, but I never thought I’d end up working at a bank,” Duffie said in a 1995 Miami Herald profile.
A stroke left Duffie’s father paralyzed so Duffie abandoned plans to attend college and moved to Miami in 1955 in search of work.
Duffie briefly worked stocking goods at a bakery, joined the Army in 1955 and toured Korea, and returned to Miami in 1958 where he worked maintenance jobs at Miami Beach hotels, pressed suits at the former Richards department store and stocked shelves at the defunct Woolworth. He also married Erma Lee Hawkins in 1959 and the couple raised three sons and two daughters.
Duffie also read the paper. And, in Miami News columnist Bill Baggs, he discovered an ally.
Baggs’ columns on civil rights spoke to Duffie so Duffie spoke to the writer.
“Mr. Baggs,” Duffie began. “I think you’re a great writer. I believe you’re for the right things. I’m a Negro from Georgia. I went to Korea for my country. I’m back now. I’ve talked to quite a few folks and haven’t had much luck,” he said in a story the Herald reported.
Baggs promised to help if Duffie would, in turn, agree to help other black men and women.
Done deal. In 1963, Baggs recommended Duffie for a job at Lincoln National Bank in Liberty City as it was about to become integrated. Garth Reeves, publisher of The Miami Times, was a board member and thought of a position for Duffie in accounts.
Duffie, however, had doubts. He had no experience and didn’t want to reflect poorly on those who had faith in him so he asked for a starter job: security guard. He attended night classes at American Institute of Banking to learn the industry.
By 1966, Duffie added teller trainee to his security duties. Then, head teller. Assistant loan officer. Assistant vice president for business development. When Capital Bank took over in 1976, then-bank president Abel Holtz promoted Duffie to branch manager and, finally, to bank vice president.
“We realized he knew everyone in the community, the black community where the branch was located, and everyone respected him and everybody liked him,” Holtz said.
As importantly, Holtz realized Duffie knew better than anyone else at the bank who to lend money to. “Most bankers look at the community and find ways to turn them down, I look at the community and try to find ways to make it work,” Duffie had said. Few loans proved bad over the years.
“We took advantage of that, promoting him to vice president and he did very good,” the retired Holtz said. “He was a good man and a man of his neighborhood and he loved his neighborhood.”
After the branch was sold in 1997, Duffie, who lived in Miramar, continued his work as a trustee at Mount Tabor Missionary Baptist Church and president of the Mount Tabor Senior Choir. He also was a chairman with the nonprofit Family Christian Association of America.
“He taught me about giving back,” said eldest son Alben Duffie. “He was dedicated to his family, to his wife and to his church. Those were great important things.”
Duffie is survived by his children Alben (Emma), Sheila, Troy (Cecily), Edward Jr. and Lisa, seven grandchildren, one great-grandson and sisters Georgia Mae Thomas, Mable Mitchell and Doris Duffie. A viewing will be held from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday at Mount Tabor Baptist Church, 1701 NW 66th St., Miami, followed by services at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Mount Tabor.