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The Story of A. G. Gaston: A success story for aspiring Businessmen

Updated on April 14, 2013
A.G. Gaston house
A.G. Gaston house | Source

The entrepreneurs who face challenges should feel encouraged by this great black entrepreneur. A.G. Gaston did not go beyond the 10th grade in terms of education. A large proportion of his wealth was accumulated through service provision. He always worked hard in creating opportunities and bettering the lives of thousands of people in America.

His net worth was approximately $30 million. Gaston was the founder of a number of enterprises such as: Citizens Federal Savings Bank, Booker T. Washington Business College, an Insurance company, Citizens Drug Store, Smith and Gaston Funeral Homes, Booker T. Washington Broadcasting Services and Vulcan Realty and Investment Corp.

Gaston appeared in the EBONY Magazine of 1963 where he wrote an article advising people on how to make millions by giving advice to people on ways of organizing wealth and make it work for you. This was the time when he was 71 years old.

Gaston passed on in 1996 at the age of 103 in Birmingham. His words of advice are still very insightful to many business leaders. These pieces of advice are applicable today as they were some four decades ago. Gaston succeeded because he knew some basic principle while he was 8 years old. The principle is to "find a need and then fulfill it".

Gaston's father died when he was a young boy, his mother was working in the white folk's kitchens. He stayed in Demopolis (AL) with his grandmother. This is the place where the grandmother had an old swing. Gaston used this swing in the yard to make The kids would bring buttons in order to be allowed by Gaston to play on the swing. This is considered to be Gaston's first business.

Gaston later on founded a company that was lending money and other services. This money was lent to services. The workers at the Tennessee coal, Iron and Steel Co. That is the time when he started the Booker T. Washington Society in the 1920s.

It is a tradition for churches during those years to pay the funeral expenses of the poor people in the community. This was a real big problem. Some people even pretended that their loved ones are dead in order to collect money from other people. Gaston found out that the funerals can be carried out in much more professional manner by making savings regularly during a person's lifetime. This is where the idea of starting the burial society came from. He could collect money from people each week and guarantee them a decent burial when they die.

Gaston's burial society later evolved into an insurance company. The company was incorporated in Birmingham in 1923.When Gaston discovered that they would not get enough clerks and typists, he started the Booker T. Washington Business College. This investment did very well during the war.

In 1956, he started the Federal Savings and Loan Association to solve the problem of inadequate housing amongst the black community. The business is currently called Citizens Federal Savings Bank. It was a common practice during that time for Negroes to be left out when in comes to mortgages. In some cases they homes were even destroyed by explosives. In that Gaston so a need which he tried to fill.

Many Negroes as a result withdrew their savings from elsewhere and deposited it with the new bank created by Gaston. That is who they changed the housing landscape in Alabama.

Nowadays, many of the businesses that were started by Gaston are still doing well. His bank as well as insurance companies are doing well in the ranking done by BE. This is what made Gaston conclude that successful businesses are build on people's needs.

The businessmen should therefore look out for needs. According to Gaston, it is not how big you become or how much wealth you generate. The important thing is what you do with the money that you have.

Money is useless unless it helps the community to better people's lives. It is quite open that any man can make money, but it takes a special person to use that money in a responsible manner.


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    • gkerosi profile image

      Geoffrey Kerosi 4 years ago from Nairobi

      Hello Pramod Gokhale,

      Thank you for following my hubs with great interest. I will continue producing high quality hubs which brings inspiration to the marginalized in our society. The principles of success are universal.

    • pramodgokhale profile image

      pramodgokhale 4 years ago from Pune( India)


      thank you for producing success story of African businessman.I receive your articles and found interesting. You are from Kenya and i am from India so it is south-south dialogue and exchanging views.

      The story of A. G. Gaston is inspiring to all third world youth and how to get success in society which discriminates non whites.

      Please send such adventurous and inspiring stories in your future articles.

      thank you.

      pramod gokhale