From KERA News:
William Madison McDonald is far from a household name these days, but he was a legend in his day. Born 150 years ago, McDonald is widely believed to have been the first black millionaire in Texas.
The son of a former slave, McDonald became an influential banker and a political force who helped shape Fort Worth at the turn of the 20th century, using his wealth and connections to help lift up his city’s African-American community.
“When I was young growing up, Bill McDonald was a mythical character. But we knew he was real … we knew he was buried, for example. We knew he had lived and been buried. But he was larger than life,” said Bob Ray Sanders, a retired Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist and former KERA newsman.
When Sanders was growing up in the 1950s and early ‘60s, the east side of Fort Worth’s downtown was the place to be. The intersection of Jones Street and Ninth Street, Sanders said, was the heart of a thriving black business district in the still-segregated city that thronged with African-American-owned restaurants, hotels, night clubs, shops and even a hospital.
“From the Convention Center almost to the Court House, these were black businesses,” Sanders recalled. “It was here, and it was vibrant.”
Lifting the community
A bank stood at the center of all that activity. Sanders said that so much of the city’s black business class was tied in one way or another to Fraternal Bank and Trust. Historians say it was the first black-owned bank in Texas. Its founder was William Madison McDonald.