The Lexington Savings Bank Scandal


On March 8, 1897, the Lexington Savings Bank went into receivership, and President Waring was nowhere to be found. Waring apparently had been conducting business at the bank on Saturday, March 6 . George L. Stanley, the bank's bookkeeper, suspected problems with the bank's affairs and called an emergency meeting of the bank's directors on Saturday night. Waring informed the gentlemen that he would have a full report of the bank's finances available on Monday evening, the regular time for the weekly directors' meeting. Waring then went home and told his wife that he was leaving for a short business trip to Washington D. C. He did not return to Baltimore until Friday, March 12, and his week-long absence caused a great deal of speculation about his motives for leaving. While Waring was missing, the bank's recievers forced open the bank's safe because Waring was the only person who knew the combination. They found only $28.72 in cash, and several promissory notes, including one in which Waring promised to pay himself $7,000. Further investigation of the bank's books led the State's Attorney to charge Waring with embezzling $700 from the bank.

When Waring returned to Baltimore on March 12, he sent telegrams to the local newspapers to announce his arrival. On March 18, the Baltimore Sun published an interview with Waring in which he explains the reasons for the bank's downfall and details the efforts he made to keep the bank afloat. According to the Baltimore Morning Herald of March 19, the stress of his predicament had begun to take a physical toll on Waring, "and he appeared to be a very sick man." He told the Sun: "I am almost crazy and I feel very much like taking my life. . . . I have been traveling around trying to loose myself or forget myself." Because the directors and stockholders had taken "but little active part . . . in the management of the institution, . . . nearly all of the work fell upon the shoulders of Waring." Accordingly, all of the responsibility for the bank's collapse belonged to him as well. Some of Waring's friends supported him during this time, noting that he "had struggled hard to maintain the bank and had used his private means to support it." Others were concerned about the effect of the bank's demise on the African American community. The Reverend P. H. A. Braxton, a stockholder, proclaimed that "the failure of the bank will be a great blow to the material interests of the colored people of Baltimore. Its successful management would have demonstrated their ability to conduct business affairs and would have marked their progress. I fear the contrary effect now, and it may be years before the community recovers from the effects of the failure."

Waring's trial was moved from Baltimore City to Howard County in 1898. Waring feared that he would not receive a fair trial in Baltimore given the hostile attitudes against him due to the failure of the bank. Sometime before the end of his trial, Waring moved from Baltimore back to his home state of Ohio, returning only to testify on his own behalf and witness the resolution of the case. The Ellicott City Times reported on April 9, 1898 that Waring was acquitted of all charges against him. Thus, the bank scandal came to an end, but not before the bank had been permanently closed, an unknown amount of money had been lost by depositors and Waring's reputation in the community was irreparably damaged. He never returned to live in Baltimore. [1]


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