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Frank B. Coakley, pioneering African American banker and city official, dies

Frank Brooks Coakley established the Baltimore Community Development Financing Corporation.
Frank Brooks Coakley established the Baltimore Community Development Financing Corporation. (JED KIRSCHBAUM/BALTIMORE SUN)

Frank Brooks Coakley, a pioneering Black manager of the old Maryland National Bank’s Mondawmin branch who became a homeownership specialist for Baltimore and Maryland, died of cancer Feb. 23 at Gilchrist Care Towson. He was 78.

“Frank was a jovial banker,” former Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said. “He had a real commitment to his profession, but also to community development. He helped me to create the city’s Community Development Financing Corporation.”

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Born in Baltimore and raised on West Lafayette Avenue in Sandtown-Winchester, he was the son of Frank Coakley, a Koppers Co. worker, and his wife, Irma Brooks, a homemaker. He was a 1960 Baltimore City College graduate.

He served in the Army in Germany and earned a bachelor’s degree at Morgan State University. He was one of 12 founders of Iota Phi Theta fraternity and remained active in the organization.

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“Frank was the definition of a gentleman’s gentleman,” said former Baltimore Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson. “His graciousness was unparalleled, and whether he was delivering good or bad news his infectious smile made all things well.

Frank Brooks Coakley is pictured in March 2002 at Baltimore School for the Arts' "Expressions 2002." KAREN JACKSON/FOR THE BALTIMORE SUN
Frank Brooks Coakley is pictured in March 2002 at Baltimore School for the Arts' "Expressions 2002." KAREN JACKSON/FOR THE BALTIMORE SUN (Karen Jackson)

“Frank had enormous charm and a great sense of humor. As a brilliant banker and financier all of his professional life, he worked tirelessly to help give clients a yes to their dreams, but even if the answer was no, he left them with pride and hope.”

Mr. Henson, a close friend, said Mr. Coakley was ambitious as a teen and “always had a job.” He recalled that while in high school he worked as a gas jockey at his Uncle George William’s garage on Gwynns Falls Parkway.,

As a young college graduate, he became a teller at the old Maryland National Bank and rose to become manager of its Mondawmin Mall branch in Northwest Baltimore.

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He remained with the firm as it merged and became NationsBank and Bank of America.

“Frank was a people person. Frank did not have enemies and he had a great sense of humor that could warm your heart,” said his wife, Dr. Marcia Henson-Coakley.

In 1989 Mr. Schmoke selected Mr. Coakley to establish a local lending program to assist Baltimore’s neighborhoods with increased affordable housing ownership. The program was called the Baltimore Community Development Financing Corporation.

In a 1993 Sun article, Mr. Coakley said: “I found in my years at the bank that people, the greater community, does not look at a bank like a business. ... [It’s] somewhere around a utility,” he said. “It’s like, ‘You need to be doing more things because you’ve got the money.’”

In 1995, Gov. Parris Glendenning appointed Mr. Coakley to be an assistant secretary of the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development and director of the Community Development Administration, a state agency responsible for lending and tax credit programs for the construction of affordable housing.

Mr. Coakley remained active in his field and worked for Fannie Mae and Harbor Bank of Maryland. He most recently was chief lending officer at Baltimore Community Lending.

Mr. Coakley was inducted into the Baltimore City College Hall of Fame. He served on the Board of Fire and Police Retirement System and was a vice president of the Delta Alumnae Foundation and board chair of the Morgan State University Foundation.

“He loved raising money for scholarships and providing funds to foster the skills he learned at Morgan into young people,” said his friend, Mr. Henson.

Mr. Coakley was a devoted member of the Episcopal Church of St. Mary The Virgin, which he supported financially and spiritually. Friends said he was a ticket seller for church jazz concerts.

“When his wife, Marcia, discovered a latent singing talent, Frank donated a baby grand piano to the church to ensure she and the choir had the best equipment,” Mr. Henson said. “He loved to go to Orioles and Ravens games, and would strategically map out attending church and the game. He was meticulous and thoughtful in all he did.”

Mr. Coakley was a stalwart in his fraternity, Iota Phi Theta. He was a founder of its Alpha Undergraduate Chapter, a founder of the Alpha Omega graduate chapter and a founder of the Gamma Omicron Omega graduate chapter. A Morgan State University scholarship has been created in his name.

Mr. Schmoke said: “Frank was heavily involved with his fraternity and loved hanging out with his brothers. He would brighten and lighten any event. He also had a good word, what the French would call a bon mot.”

Mr. Coakley was a member of the Baltimore chapter of the National Association of Guardsmen. He enjoyed travel in the Caribbean Islands and made repeated visits to the Bahamas, Antigua and Jamaica.

“He liked playing golf, and while not particularly good at it, won a few tournaments by making sure that good friend and low-handicapped Kenny Taylor was on his team,” Mr. Henson said.

A funeral will be held at noon Saturday in Gilliam Hall at the Murphy Fine Arts Building at Morgan State University, 2201 Argonne Drive. The funeral will be streamed.

In addition to his wife of 22 years, a Woodlawn dentist, survivors include a daughter, Ambre Anderson of New York City; a son, Curtis Coakley of Leesburg, Virginia; and four grandchildren.

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