William Henry Banks Sr.

William Henry Banks, Sr., affectionately called “Big Daddy,” was born on December 18, 1890, in Henrico, Virginia. He was the fourth child and only son born to Commodore and Virginia Banks. William and his sisters had different surnames, although they had the same biological mother and father, because social and legal constraints did not permit interracial marriages during that time. William Henry Banks, Sr., was firm, strong, and decisive, while kind, gentle, generous, and loving. He was a dignified man and never allowed the racial injustices he suffered to cause him to become bitter or negative.

He married Claudith Ball Banks (census takers recorded her name as “Claudia” because that is what they thought it should be), and together they had five children: Ann Odell, William Henry, Jr., Herbert Samuel, Elva Eugertha, and Miriam Dorothea. William and Claudith were blessed with 10 grandchildren. He loved his family dearly and was an excellent provider and nurturer. The family made their home in Henrico County, in a small village known as Woodville, which Richmond City later annexed. According to the family’s oral history, the original homestead, which still exists today, was given to William’s ancestors during Reconstruction around 1868 by the Purcells, who were believed to have owned members of the family.

William Henry Banks, Sr., was devoted to his God and family. He served faithfully as chairman of the Diaconate Ministry of Mount Tabor Baptist Church for over 20 years until his death, and as chairman, he oversaw the relocation of the church from 23rd and Selden Streets to Fairmount Avenue, in Richmond. He was also civically engaged and served as a member of the Deacons Conference of Richmond and Vicinity and as a member of the Fairmount Beneficial Club, which helped community members in need of assistance. He raised chickens to help feed his neighbors and would host Sunday dinner after church for the community.

He was employed during his adult life by Lorillard Tobacco Company in Richmond. During the mid-1900s, as a young man, he was selected as the first and only African American delegate to represent the company at a Session of Congress and at the meeting afterward at the White House. As a little girl being reared by my maternal grandmother and him, he taught me how to register to vote, exercise the franchise, conduct business, and interact successfully with the white community, among many other life lessons and survival skills.

Brenda Holmes Edwards, granddaughter, August 20, 2019

William Henry Banks Sr.
  • Born: 18 December 1890
  • Died: 2 January 1959
  • Birth Place: Henrico County, Virginia
  • Death Place: Richmond, Virginia
  • Spouse: Claudith (Ball) Banks
  • Parents: Commodore Banks, Virginia —
  • Children: Ann Odell, William Henry, Jr., Herbert Samuel, Elva Eugertha, Miriam Dorothea
  • Other Family:
  • Occupation: Laborer (Lorillard Tobacco Company)
  • Church: Mt. Tabor Baptist Church (deacon)
  • Affiliations: Deacons Conference of Richmond and Vicinity; Fairmount Beneficial Club
  • Address: 2115 Selden Street
  • Documents: Census (1930, 1940); children's marriage and death records; city directories; death certificate; family records and recollections; WWI and WWII draft registrations
  • Military Service:
Contributors to this Record:
Brenda Holmes Edwards