Jefferson A. Beaver (1908-1991)

Mr. and Mrs. Jefferson Beaver attending John F. Kennedy's Presidential Inauguration Ball, 1961
Image courtesy Jeffrey Beaver

Jefferson August Beaver, banker, businessman, local politician, and civil rights activist, was born in Warren, Arkansas on May 20, 1908 to parents Rev. Robert Jefferson Beaver, a minister with the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church and Ethel Jordan.  Beaver’s family resided in Monticello, Arkansas before moving to San Francisco in 1911, and he spent the rest of his life in the Bay Area.  Beaver received a B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley in 1936 and pursued post-graduate studies at Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts.  He spent one year at Golden Gate University Law School in San Francisco.  Beaver married Fanny May Ansley in 1938 and the couple had three children, Jane, Jeffrey, and Jonathan.  A fourth child, James Michael Beaver, died of tuberculosis in infancy.

Jefferson Beaver was known for his civil rights activism in San Francisco’s black community and particularly in the campaigns for public housing and fair employment opportunities. Beaver held the presidency of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) San Francisco branch and the Bay Area Urban League in the mid-1950s. He was appointed to the San Francisco Housing Authority Commission in 1956, and later became its president. He was also a member of the San Francisco Council for Civic Unity which campaigned for a fair housing ordinance in the 1940s and 1950s.

During this period he also served on the California Committee for Fair Employment Practices (FEPC), and held the position of Special Deputy Commissioner of Corporations for the State of California.  He was a member of U.S. Department of Commerce trade missions to the Soviet Union in 1959 and Nigeria in 1961 to report on business opportunities in each country.  Beaver, a Democrat, was a California delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1956 which nominated Adlai Stevenson for President, and the Convention in Los Angeles in 1960 which nominated John F. Kennedy for the Presidency.

Beaver incorporated civil rights activism into his work as a banker by co-founding Transbay Federal Savings and Loan in 1949 and Golden Gate National Bank in 1961. Transbay Federal was one of the largest savings and loan institutions to serve primarily black customers in this era. He was also editor of the San Francisco Reporter, the city’s African American newspaper.  Beaver was also a member of Alpha Phi Alpha and Sigma Pi Phi fraternities.

Jefferson August Beaver died in Seattle on September 8, 1991, at the age of 83.