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BICENTENNIAL: Four who made a difference: Professional & Financial Services

December 12, 2015
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Robert Lee Brokenburr

1886-1974

Robert Lee Brokenburr’s life encapsulated much of the civil rights struggle of the 20th century. A lifelong Republican attorney, he fought for the rights of the Indianapolis African-American community in court, represented his adopted city in the General Assembly, and established a reputation as one of the state’s most effective legal minds. A 1906 graduate of Hampton Institute, he earned his law degree from Howard University. He arrived in Indianapolis in 1909, was admitted to the Indiana Bar in 1910, and practiced for the next 64 years. Brokenburr served in the Indiana Senate 18 years, from 1941 to 1948 and from 1953 to 1964.•

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Calvin Fletcher

1798-1866

Calvin Fletcher’s life epitomized the development of professional and financial services in 19th-century Indianapolis. Born in Vermont at the tail end of the 18th century, Fletcher read law in Ohio and arrived in Indianapolis shortly after the city was founded. He practiced law in the Hoosier capital with Ovid Butler and retired after 20 years to pursue business and agricultural interests. Fletcher was a founding director of the State Bank of Indiana in 1835, founded the Indianapolis Branch Banking Co. in 1857, and had extensive banking interests in Madison during the period. His brother, Stoughton A. Fletcher Sr., and nephew Stoughton A. Fletcher II carried on the family’s banking interests for the next century.•

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Otto N. Frenzel

1899-1989

For much of the 20th century, Otto Frenzel’s name was synonymous with banking in Indianapolis. A graduate of Shortridge High School, Frenzel was attending Cornell University when the United States entered World War I. He served in the U.S. Naval Reserve and returned to Indianapolis in 1919 as a messenger boy for his father’s Merchants National Bank. Over the next quarter century, he worked in every department of the bank, serving as president of the Indiana Trust Co. from 1936 to 1945. That year, he assumed the presidency of Merchants National, and in 1953 was named president of the merged Merchants National Bank and Trust Co. Frenzel guided the bank from 1945 until his retirement in 1979. During his tenure, bank assets grew from $114 million to $1.64 billion, and deposits increased from $108 million to more than $1.1 billion. Loans increased 60-fold, to nearly $800 million.•

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Benjamin Harrison

1833-1901

The grandson of U.S. President William Henry Harrison, Benjamin Harrison served as U.S. president from 1889 to 1893. Born and raised in the Cincinnati area, Harrison read law in Ohio and moved to Indianapolis, where he set up a practice in 1854. A brevet brigadier general who served in the Army of the Cumberland during the Civil War, Harrison was one of Indiana’s U.S. senators from 1881-1887. Following his presidential-election loss to Grover Cleveland in 1892, Harrison returned to Indianapolis, where he was among the city’s most successful attorneys. Harrison died in March 1901 and is buried in Crown Hill Cemetery.•

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