Laurence H. Banks – Wikipedia

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American politician

Laurence Harold Banks (October 31, 1897 – June 12, 1972) was an American politician who served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives and on the Boston City Council. He was the first African-American elected to the Boston City Council.[1]

Early life[edit]

Banks was born on October 31, 1897, in Boston.[2] He attended Boston Public Schools and graduated from The English High School, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston University, and Suffolk University Law School. Outside of politics, Banks worked as an attorney, advertising consultant, accountant, and operated a multigraph service.[3]

Political career[edit]

Banks was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1946. He was the first African-American elected to the House since William H. Lewis in 1901.[4] In 1948, Banks sought both the Republican and Democratic nominations for his House seat. He was declared the winner of the Democratic primary by 37 votes, however a recount resulted in challenger William A. Glynn picking up 58 votes and Banks only picking up 2, resulting in a 19-vote victory for Glynn.[5] In the general election, Glynn defeated Banks by 886 votes.[6]

In 1949, Banks ran for Ward 9’s seat on the Boston City Council. The initial results showed incumbent Daniel F. Sullivan defeated Banks by 22 votes.[7] Banks requested a recount, which reduced Sullivan’s margin of victory to 6 votes. Following the recount, election commission chairman J. Joseph Connors declared that there were irregularities worth investigating. According to the commission, there were 29 ballots with marks bearing firmly-written crosses besides Banks’ name that were invalidated because they included fainter marks for one of the other 3 candidates. The commission felt that these votes should have been counted for Banks, as the marks for Banks matched those marked in the Mayoral election. However state law required that these votes be invalidated.[8] On January 3, 1949, judge J. Arthur Baker ruled that Banks was the winner of the election and referred the case to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office for “possible criminal action”. However, the city council, on advice of the city law department, chose to swear in Sullivan pending the outcome of his appeal to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.[9] On June 15, 1951, the Supreme Court ordered the Superior Court to issue a writ of mandamus certifying Banks as the councilor for Ward 9.[10] On July 31, 1951, Banks was issued his certificate of election and was sworn in by Mayor John B. Hynes.[11] The council granted Banks $4,800 in pack pay and $4,000 in legal fees.[12][13] He ran in the 1951 council election, which was the year the council switched from a 22-member board elected on a district basis to a 9-member at-large council but did not make it out of the preliminary election.[14]

Later life[edit]

Banks was an unsuccessful candidate for the Boston City Council in 1953 and 1967 and the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1955 and 1958.[15][16][17][18] He served as a member of the Republican state committee and was the party’s assistant treasurer.[19][20] In 1967 he was a founding officer of the Unity Bank and Trust Co., the city’s first African-American owned bank.[21] Banks died unexpectedly on June 12, 1972, at his home in Roxbury.[22][3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Herman, Jennifer L. (2008). Massachusetts Encyclopedia. North American Book Distributors.
  2. ^ Public Officers of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts 1947-48. Retrieved September 1, 2021.
  3. ^ a b “Laurence H. Banks dies at 74 in Roxbury”. The Bay State Banner. June 22, 1972.
  4. ^ “Negro in Bay State Legislature”. The New York Times. November 8, 1946.
  5. ^ “Glynn Nominated in Recount Upset for House Seat”. The Boston Daily Globe. September 24, 1948.
  6. ^ “Glynn Wins House Seat in Recount, Banks Concedes”. The Boston Daily Globe. November 19, 1948.
  7. ^ “Rep. Banks Files Only Petition for Vote Recount”. The Boston Daily Globe. November 10, 1949.
  8. ^ Lewis, William J. (November 23, 1949). “Ballot Tampering Stirs Probe”. The Boston Daily Globe.
  9. ^ “Sullivan Seated in Council Despite Ruling for Banks”. The Boston Globe. January 4, 1950.
  10. ^ “LAURENCE H. BANKS vs. ELECTION COMMISSIONERS OF BOSTON & another (and two companion cases )”. JUSTIA US Law. Justia. Retrieved 7 September 2021.
  11. ^ “Banks Sworn In as Councilor After 21-Month Struggle”. The Boston Daily Globe. August 1, 1951.
  12. ^ “Council Approves $4800 Transfer to Pay Banks’ Salary”. The Boston Daily Globe. October 9, 1951.
  13. ^ “Council Approves $4000 for Banks”. The Boston Daily Globe. August 5, 1952.
  14. ^ “Banks Loses In Boston Primaries”. The Chicago Defender. October 20, 1951.
  15. ^ Annual Report of the Election Department. Boston [Election Dept.] 1954. p. 56.
  16. ^ Annual Report of the Election Department. Boston [Election Dept.] 1968. p. 71.
  17. ^ “Glynn, Banks Win in Roxbury Special Primary”. The Boston Daily Globe. February 16, 1955.
  18. ^ Massachusetts Election Statistics 1958. p. 324.
  19. ^ “Newton Attacks Redistricting: Asks High Court to Quash New Senate Voting Areas”. The Boston Globe. June 7, 1960.
  20. ^ Lewis, William J. (May 18, 1960). “McLean Reelected State GOP Chairman”. The Boston Globe.
  21. ^ “Negro-Owned Roxbury Bank Wins Charter”. The Boston Globe. June 28, 1967.
  22. ^ “Deaths”. The Boston Globe. June 14, 1972.