From 1889 to 1938, E.M. Downer was among the most influential and prominent business figures in the history of Pinole and its surrounding communities. The tradition began when he was 20, upon his appointment as Transfer Agent and Telegrapher for the Pinole Depot of the Southern Pacific Railroad company.
From then until his death in 1938, Mr. Downer developed a reputation for business acumen and civic service. The depot soon became the business center of the community. He opened a laundry. Then, with a friend, he began publishing The Pinole Weekly Times, the town's first post office opened at the depot, guess who became Pinole's first Postmaster?
When Pinole incorporated in 1903, Mr. Downer became its City Clerk. He was elected Mayor, a position he held until his death.
In the meantime, Mr. Downer began his banking career by offering financial services to friends and neighbors. In 1905, with a small floor safe in a one-room office, he opened the Bank of Pinole and took the title, Cashier. People came to him to bank their money because there were no banks in the area. Until then, people had to go to Martinez once a week to do their banking.
In 1915 Mr. Downer became Second Vice President of Mechanics Bank. In 1919 he purchased controlling interest in the Bank and became its President.
While banking was his greatest love, Mr. Downer also loved people, a trait which also has been passed down through the generations. He was hardworking, ingenious and also very civic minded. He was truly one of the outstanding citizens of Pinole.
E.M. Downer steered the Bank from its infancy through years of dramatic growth in the 1920s when the Bank opened its first branch office and established new departments. During these years, Richmond was recognized as a major West Coast industrial center. The Bank was positioned to serve Standard Oil, Santa Fe Railroad, the Ford Motor Company and their employees. His thoughtful and professional leadership steered the Bank through the Great Depression Years when many banks failed to survive.