This story is through a partnership with TMJ4 News, the Wisconsin Black Historical Society/Museum, and the Milwaukee High School of the Arts.
On an average commute, you might drive past Columbia Savings and Loans and think nothing of it.
What you don't know is that it was one of the first Black-owned financial institutions in the Midwest and was founded by an inspirational Milwaukee leader named Ardie Clark Halyard.
“She was very determined to do things upright and do things well," Lafayette McKinney.
Ardie was born in Covington, Georgia in 1896. Her mother died early which left Ardie to take on the role of being a motherly figure to her younger siblings
”She was always present, and she always made the difference, she was always engaging and active in terms of making things happen.”
Ardie went on to become one of the most prominent and influential civil rights activists in Milwaukee, yet her legacy was kept out of the limelight.
Ardie fought tirelessly for equal rights in Milwaukee. She was a founder of an NAACP branch in Beloit, Wisconsin, helped launch chapters in Racine and Kenosha, and was the first woman president of the Milwaukee Chapter.
In 1924, Ardie and her husband founded Columbia Savings and Loans which allowed African Americans to apply for loans without facing racial discrimination.
She also worked as a director for the Goodwill industry for over 20 years, dedicating her time to helping others around her.
Today Ardie’s legacy lives on in Milwaukee. There is a park, city street, and neighborhood named after the Halyards. Many of the houses in Halyard Park were built with money lent from Columbia Savings & Loans.
Watch the full story below:
Watch TMJ4 News' Susan Kim discuss the story with student journalists Matiana Hernandez and Alexander Eberhage: