North Carolina Department of Correction News - March 1999

Minority Pioneer Ed Banks dies
Former Superintendent was one of the first African Americans hired by the department

GOLDSBORO — Ed Banks who was among the first group of African-Americans hired by the department died Jan. 31 in a Goldsboro hospital.

In 1961, Banks was hired as a sergeant of the guard along with 18 other African-Americans who were assigned to the Guilford Correctional Center at McLeansville. He worked at a number of jobs in the department, but was most closely associated with Goldsboro Correctional Center where he served as superintendent for 20 years.

"He was a person you could trust, a person you could depend on," said Pete Barnett who worked with Banks for 25 years. "Ed was a good friend of mine. He was a very kind and good person."

The Guilford Correctional Center was the first field unit where African Americans were assigned, according to Barnett. He remembers Banks’ background in athletics as one of the reasons he recruited him to work at the Goldsboro unit. They built an enduring friendship.

Both men were active in the Minority Pioneers, an African-American organization whose members helped break the color barrier in the agency and served as mentors to those following in their footsteps.

During his early years at Goldsboro Correctional Center, Banks served as athletic director and coach. Then he went on to serve as coordinator of the department’s Committed Youthful Offender Program, the statewide Jaycee Program and the Central Classification Board.

Banks was superintendent of Greene Correctional Center from 1973 to 1975 then moved to Goldsboro Correctional Center as superintendent.

When Greene Superintendent Russell Ginn worked with Banks in the 1970s, Ginn was a sergeant at the prison. He remembers Banks as a good friend.

"Ed was a caring, compassionate man. He cared for his employees and inmates. He cared for people as people," Ginn said.

"Ed treated people fairly. He was concerned about the welfare of others, inmates, staff or anyone he knew," said Joe Dunlop, Greene’s chaplain who worked with Banks. "He set an example for other superintendents with his compassion for other people."

Hugh Jones served with Banks during his last nine years at Goldsboro Correctional Center.

"He’d love to go out on post checks, checking inmate job sites. He believed in keeping the prison spit-shined," Jones said. "He was known for the annual fish fries that he held at the prison. It started out as a meal for the inmates, but he later invited correction managers from the Eastern Area and community leaders. We would cook 200 pounds of fish and eat it with potato salad, slaw and hush puppies."

Eastern Region Director Joe Lofton remembers Banks’ active work in the N.C. Correction Association and the State Employees Association.

"Having known him and seeing how he performed his job and seeing the joy he got from his job was certainly an inspiration to me," said Lofton who met Banks years before considering a career in corrections.

Banks held a Bachelor of Science degree in physical education and history from North Carolina A&T University and served a stint in the U.S. Army.

"I have been blessed beyond any reasonable doubt," said Banks at a luncheon in his honor when he retired July 31, 1996, "My experience has been very good, and I am leaving on a high note."

Banks devoted 35 years to the state of North Carolina and DOC. u

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