In the preparation for the trip, one person I’d been in extensive contact with was the CEO of Shreveport FCU, Helen Godfrey Smith. One of the founding members of the African American Credit Union Coalition, Ms. Smith took an interest in African American credit union history several years ago, and was the driving force behind the exhibit at America’s Credit Union Museum. Given that the community of people in the U.S. who are doing work on the history of the credit union movement can be counted on one hand, I was excited to have the opportunity to meet Ms. Smith in person, and rolled out from Jackson towards Shreveport for a late afternoon meeting.
When I arrived, the location stood in stark contrast to that of my last interview; instead of half a shipping container, the Shreveport FCU headquarters occupies a substantial two-story building in a commercial part of town. After checking in at the front desk, I was ushered up stairs and to Ms. Smith’s office, where she and VP Martha Morris awaited me. After briefly discussing my project and previous interviews, I set up my camera and began my interview with Ms. Smith, which covered a great deal of ground, including, among other topics, her background, maintaining a sense of community in the face of growth and consolidation, segregation in the early movement, the African American Credit Union Coalition, and the challenges of the regulatory structure.
Once we concluded, Ms. Smith encouraged Ms. Morris to fill me in a bit about the process by which her credit union had merged with Shreveport, and I did a short interview with her, during which we also discussed how she first got involved with credit unions when she ran one as a volunteer while working at a unionized plywood plant, and her sense of the challenges facing the contemporary movement.