E.M. Downer, Jr.


No one in the Bank's history has been more loved and respected than E.M. Downer Jr. His ascension to Bank's presidency in 1939 began a 40-year mutual admiration between him and his employees.

His employees called him, simply, "The Boss" and they did so with affection. A generous, kind man, Mr. Downer Jr. was also very low key. He shunned publicity, but never his friends.

"He did a lot of things no one knows about," says Ruth Byrone, his secretary from 1962 until his death in 1978. "He helped a lot of people. He was very interested in the employees. He was a kind-hearted man."

A frequent contributor to charitable organizations, Mr. Downer Jr. remained in the background in all his philanthropic activities.

"People would come to him and he would get things done," says former Bank Vice President Stanley Loiseau, a close friend. "He was a very community minded man but he always managed to keep himself out of the limelight.

"I spent a lot of time with him. He was such a good banker. He dealt more with the human aspect of banking than most bankers do. He was concerned with a person's integrity. His influence is a large part of why the bank enjoys the reputation it does. His attitude flowed down to the staff. Above all, he was a gentlemen, in every sense and description of the word."

In 1939, Mr. Downer Jr. became President, ushering in the finest years in the Bank's history.

During this time, the war in Europe was already underway. If any event caused the city of Richmond and Mechanics Bank to grow overnight, it was World War II. This was the Big Boom!

The 1940's brought Henry Kaiser and his shipbuilding company to Richmond. Kaiser's shipyard drew more then 70,000 new citizens to the city. The Bank was right in step with the industry, pioneering personal, automobile and appliance loans and installing drive-in banking facilities. All were firsts in Northern California. From 1941 to 1945, the Bank's assets increased nearly 450%.