By Reginald Stuart
NASHVILLE, TN — Long before Theopolis Boyd III braved the early evening train heading out of his Pearl High School 1965 graduation ceremony, he was already set for success. Being a member of the well-established Boyd family of North Nashville, he just needed to follow the game plan laid by his parents and family to succeed in his run of life’s race.
Along the way, he ran into episodes of racism, stemming from ignorance, he said. Still, with his head held high and self-propelled dignity intact, “T.B.” as close friends called him, did not get distracted from what his family set out to achieve and what he passed on to others.
“He was always the businessman,” said former Red Cross organizer Gwen Kelly Harris, a Pearl High classmate of Boyd’s. “He (Boyd) was going to be a businessman,” Harris said of the high school band trumpet player.
Harris said Boyd, whose siblings, Brenda, Jerrilyn and Allen, attended public school as he had, spent years of his active life blazing paths of opportunity for people, pitching in to help stage Pearl High reunions, printing programs at his family-owned publishing company and giving technical support along the way. “He was a silent supporter,” she said.
“I always thought his suits were like tailored suits, fit him like a glove,” said classmate Mattie Morris, echoing fellow high school alums who likened Boyd’s disposition to that of Pearl High’s late band director Marcus Gunter. “He had swagger,” said Morris, noting ties and courtesy were commonplace among young men when possible.
In an interview in the late 1990’s, Boyd, a Tennessee State University graduate, reflected on how he saw the future evolving as the calendar turned into the 21st century, marked by the publication of the late John Egerton-edited book “Nashville: An American Self-Portrait. “We, Black folks in general, lost that level of respect for our elders that we had at one time. The children of today are not indoctrinated with that respect, I don’t think we are prepared at all for what is ahead,” said Boyd, leader of the fourth generation of his family in the Nashville publishing and printing business.
As part of its empire of small businesses, the Boyd family also founded and ran for decades the Citizens Savings Bank and Trust Company, initially located at 4th and Charlotte Avenue, once across the street from the Boyd controlled National Baptists Publishing Board and the Black YMCA. From that position Citizens helped finance the construction of dozens of church facilities around the city. The publishing board, wrote and printed thousands of pages of daily gospel readings for Baptist churches across the country for years.
In the early 1970s, T.B. marshalled construction on Centennial Boulevard of a new modern publishing and printing house for the publishing group and began to draw in new faces for bank leadership. The publishing house etched its place in the religious community in the mid-1980s, passing the 5 million copy mark in publishing a new National Black Hymnal.
Boyd served as bank chairman, succeeding his father, for more than 40 years.
In his later years, “T.B.” gave generously as a founder of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, part of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. in addition to countless local contributions.
Boyd’s support is helping Fisk University renovate a building – –Boyd House–on the university campus and is cited for supporting others including the March of Dimes and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity.
Since taking an unexpected retirement from leadership of the Boyd enterprises in 2017, LaDonna, one of three children of T.B. and wife Yvette Duke Boyd, a high school classmate, has taken the reins of the corporation as the fifth generation of Boyd leadership. She has also been elected to the board of directors of Citizens Bank and Trust.
The family has adamantly declined to publicly comment about his health since his retirement was announced. His daughter, LaDonna, has actively spent her first several years adapting to chief executive responsibilities of the multi-million-dollar enterprise ranging from routine grip-and-grin tasks to making the big decisions T.B. had become known for like his parents.
“He was firmly committed to economic development in our community,” said Richard Manson, appointed chairman of Citizens Savings Bank and Trust in 2019 when Boyd stepped down. “He wanted to make sure Citizens Bank remained viable.”