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Bunny Stokes, Jr, a well-known Birmingham banking executive who paved the way for Black bankers, dies at 77

Published: Jun. 25, 2021 at 5:29 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) -Bunny Stokes, Jr. was one of A.G. Gaston’s most trusted and loyal senior executives. Stokes’ servant leadership is something he’s being remembered for.

A picture hanging in his former office shows Stokes overlooking his boss, the legendary A. G. Gaston signing contracts to build what would become Citizens Federal Savings bank, later turning into Citizens Trust on Third Avenue North.

Stokes would go on to be trail blazer in his own right. He joined Citizens in the late 60s and retired as president of the Birmingham branch in 2016.

Jason Eppenger succeeded him.

“He was a pioneer in our industry. He was a champion for diversity,” Eppenger who is the Alabama market president for Citizens Trust Bank said.

Eppenger says Stokes paved the way for Black bankers. He says Stokes was instrumental in setting a culture of good customer service and being a servant leader. Stokes’ diligence allowed for many Black people to obtain opportunities in banking at a time when it was difficult for many people of color to do so.

“People like myself would not have had some of the opportunities that I’ve had in this industry had it not been for him blazing a trail and setting the standard of excellence for people like myself,” Eppenger said.

Stokes’ son Trent tells us his dad meant the world to him. At an early age, Stokes taught his children values. “Wanted me to learn the value of relationships and he preached that. If you can master relationships, the rest of it will come,” Stokes said.

Trent says his dad was the type of man who, if he told you he was going to do something, he kept his word. People knew Stokes as the businessman, but his family saw him as much more.

“I would see a different side of him as a father..the softer side, the silly side of course and then you had those moments when he was stern. I was blessed to see all components of who he was,” Stokes said.

Eppegner says the foundation Stokes laid will definitely live on.

“We want to be more than just a transaction business to them and that was his legacy that you treat people like people and not like numbers. That you give the personal touch and go the extra mile,” Eppenger said.

Outside banking, Stokes had a lot of success in real estate.

Bunny Stokes, Jr. was 77 years old. He died on June 18. His funeral is Friday at 11 a.m. at Elmwood cemetery.

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