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Staff Writer
January 16, 2005

Some local banks will not be closed for MLK holiday

Almost 25 years after Martin Luther King's birthday became a federal holiday, some Nashville banks are conducting business as usual.

Instead of giving their employees a day off in recognition of the preacher-turned-civil rights leader-turned martyr, all Nashville US Bank branches and SunTrust Bank locations inside Kroger supermarkets are operating today.

"Our decision is strictly consumer driven," said Steve Dale, a US Bank spokesman based in Minneapolis. "A lot of times people have that day off and it may be the only chance they have during the week to take care of their financial needs."

The banking industry, historically known for keeping "banker's hours," has had to adapt to the needs of its consumers by extending branch hours past 3 p.m. and in some cases being open on Saturdays.

Representatives of AmSouth Bank, The Bank of Nashville, Bank of America, Citizens Bank, Cumberland Bank, The Farmers Bank, First Federal Savings Bank and First Tennessee reached Thursday said their branches would be closed today.

Federal, state and Metro offices and Metro schools are closed for the holiday and most city and county offices in the area also are closed.

Most retail businesses including supermarkets, malls, movie theaters and restaurants don't normally close on federal holidays.

Arnett Bodenhamer, president of the NAACP's Nashville branch, said the day should be used to reflect on the improvements made by King's sacrifice and struggle.

"Martin Luther King deserves to be honored on that day. He not only did things to make life better for black folk but for all people and all mankind," Bodenhamer said.

"There are a number of businesses that are taking advantage of this holiday and use the excuse it's for their customers."

While Bodenhamer thinks King's message could be lost in the quest for the bottom line and greater convenience, others say observing King's birthday isn't the biggest issue facing black Americans.

"As we express our concern about those who may or may not be honoring the memory of this dynamic hero, we should be aware of the fact that there are actions going on that could defeat the progress of the King movement," Tommie Morton-Young said.

Morton-Young and three other Middle Tennessee civil rights leaders were acknowledged for their contribution to the movement at a recent ceremony commemorating King.

The likely appointment of Judge Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court could negatively affect African-Americans, she said.

The banks, as well as some car dealers, open today are also open on other national holidays, seeing it as a chance to serve customers or for a sale.

An increased demand for more banking hours has changed the way financial institutions operate.

It used to be that banks were only open on weekdays and closed by midafternoon but industry competition has forced most banks to offer more services and availability to customers.

"Our customers asked for it," Dale said. "This is our way of answering our customers."

SunTrust Bank, based in Atlanta where King lived, will operate its in-store locations today, President's Day, Columbus Day and Veterans Day, said Mike McCoy, SunTrust spokesman. Its other 57 free-standing branches will be closed.

"Certainly, none of the branches are open to make a social statement of any sort," he said.

"Part of it is, the in-store branches have extended hours. We try to be open when the supermarket is."

Bodenhamer and Morton-Young said King deserves the same amount of respect and honor as other American icons.

"Dr. King is as important as George Washington," Morton-Young said.

"To African-Americans, Martin Luther King is a father of the country as George Washington was the father of the country. We, as African-Americans, cherish King's image just that dearly."

What are people saying about mortgages today:

Rates on 30-year mortgages edged down last week to a seven-month low. Mortgage-giant Freddie Mac reported Thursday that 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages fell to 6.3 percent, down slightly from 6.31 percent two weeks ago. It put rates at the lowest level since they were at 6.24 percent the first week of March.

Bank of Hawaii, Central Pacific Bank, Territorial Savings Bank and Wells Fargo Home Mortgages all cut their 30-year mortgage rates to 5.75 percent this week.

Most people think of a mortgage as a means to an end. After all, you buy a house, not a home loan. But a mortgage is much more than the path to homeownership. It is a financial instrument that must be managed, just like any other financial investment.