‘Pete’ Allison, ‘conscience of the community,’ dies at 91

Mar. 03, 2014 @ 07:06 PM

Retired banker and former Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People Chairman F.V. “Pete” Allison Jr. died Monday morning, family members said. He was 91.

Mr. Allison led what became the Mutual Community Savings Bank from 1978 to 1996, serving as its president, chief executive officer and chairman. He joined the bank in 1953, rising through the ranks after starting as a bookkeeper and teller.

He was also a longtime member of the Durham Committee, toiling for many years as its treasurer and then in the early 1990s as its chairman.

In both roles, “he served Durham exceptionally well,” said state Sen. Floyd McKissick Jr., D-Durham.

“He was a good personal friend, somebody with good political instincts, a good, savvy businessman but most important a principled leader who was able to operate firmly with what I would refer to as a ‘rubber hammer,’” Sen. McKissick said. “He could get his way without using a sledgehammer. People would come along and follow him.”

Mayor Bill Bell said Mr. Allison’s personal qualities matched his record as a community leader.

“Wise, resolute, firm in his own way, dependable, a great all-around person,” he said. “Pete was a great guy. You always knew where he was coming from.”

The Durham Committee’s new chairman, former state Sen. Ralph Hunt, D-Durham, called Mr. Allison the “conscience of the community.”

“You could depend on him in most any way you would call upon him to be involved,” Sen. Hunt said.

Mr. Allison was a native of Greensville County, Va., growing up around the county seat, Emporia. He secured an undergraduate degree from Hampton University and a master’s in business administration from New York University before coming to Durham.

Years after his retirement, he said the move to Durham had “turned [him] around” because he had not decided beforehand what he would try to do with his life.

A meeting with former Mutual Savings & Loan Association President John S. “Shag” Stewart led to a job offer, and Mr. Allison wound up spending the rest of his professional career at the bank.

That stands out because it is unusual nowadays “for someone to be at one professional job like that for almost his entire professional career,” said Dr. F. Vincent Allison III, Mr. Allison’s son.

As its chief executive, Mr. Allison managed the bank’s transition from savings and loan to community savings bank, and the acquisition of two smaller banks.

“He navigated the institution through really a pinnacle of success, despite challenging times,” Sen. McKissick said. “When he left the helm, it was a strong competitor, well-regarded in the business community.”

But what mattered more was the bank’s lending to would-be homebuyers and business owners, Sen. McKissick said.

Mutual under his leadership “provided an avenue for lending for people who might have had difficulties and challenges with more traditional institutions,” he said, adding that Mr. Allison was “a champion of economic development.”

Mr. Allison never held elected office, but he was someone city and county leaders looked to when it came to filling advisory or oversight roles.

He served, for example, on the RDU Airport Authority board, a posting his son said he was “most proud of” because it coincided with the start of direct flights to London.

He also received gubernatorial appointments to the board of the N.C. Education Assistance Authority, which advises the UNC system on the handling of student-aid issues.

Mr. Allison is survived by his wife, Dr. E. Lavonia Allison; their two children, F. Vincent Allison III and K. Michele Allison-Davis; a daughter-in-law, Terri Allison; a son-in-law, Curtis L. Davis; and four grandchildren, Christopher Vincent Allison, Bryan Mikell Allison, Curtis L. Davis Jr. and Melissa A. Davis.

Arrangements for Mr. Allison’s funeral remained pending as of press time Monday. The family is working with Burthey Funeral Services of Durham.