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Roger Ware BANKS

Died on October 18 in Minneapolis He was 76 After moving to the Twin Cities from his native New Mexico in the late 1960s, Roger Ware Banks worked tirelessly towards the goals of understanding the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area's diverse populations and applying that knowledge to empower its families and organizations. Roger stated that his life's work focused on "reducing the social, economic, and political disparities experienced by populations of color, particularly the poor." Roger was born on August 27, 1936, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to Robert T. Banks and Violet Houston Banks. After graduating from Carver High School in Phoenix, Arizona in 1954, Roger joined the U.S. Army where, between 1955 and 1958, he said he was "introduced to the philosophy and scope of community organization and involvement" through training with the 77th Special Forces Airborne Group and 82nd Airborne Division. After completing his military service Roger earned BA and MA degrees in History and Political Science at the University of New Mexico, where he was a member of Phi Kappa Phi National Honor Society, the National Student Association, and a fellow in NASA's Program for the Advanced Study of Public Science Policy and Administration. While an undergraduate Roger was active in the civil rights movement. In 1959 he conducted a housing discrimination research project for the University of New Mexico and, in 1960, conducted the first statewide Public Accommodations Survey in the nation. Roger stated that both projects were done with the purpose of "proactively developing legislation/ policy and changing systemic and individual behavior." Roger completed course work for a Ph.D. in Political Science at the University of Minnesota while the recipient of a NIMH grant for the Study of Policy Evaluation and Methodology and as an American Political Science Association Black Fellow. Always eager to share his knowledge and experience with others, from 1974- 2000 Roger taught courses in American public policy, ethnic politics, cultural competency, among others, for the Afro-American and African Studies and Political Science Departments at the University of Minnesota, the Political Science Department at Macalester College, and the Center for Non-Profit Management at the University of Saint Thomas. For almost 50 years Roger designed, developed, implemented and evaluated numerous programs and initiatives aimed at reducing disparities experienced by populations of color and the poor. Roger held positions with the New Mexico Peace Corps and VISTA Training Center, 1965-1968; the Economic Opportunity Board of Bernalillo County, New Mexico (U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity), 1965-1969; the New Mexico Intergovernmental Seminar for Government Executives, 1969-1970; the Minneapolis Area United Way, 1979-1993; the Minneapolis Urban League, 1993-1996; the Children's Initiative of St. Paul/Ramsey County, 1996-2000; and the State of Minnesota Council on Black Minnesotans, 2002-2012. In addition, Roger served on many committees and boards including the Junior League of Minneapolis; Minnesota Visiting Nurse Agency; Minneapolis Area United Way; Minnesota Department of Health's Advisory Group on Race and Ethnicity, Office of Minority Health; Minnesota Council on Black Aging; Minneapolis Neighborhood Revitalization Program; Minnesota Parenting Association; Minnesota Elders Coalition, ELDERS Senior Center; Minnesota Department of Planning; Urban Communities Association of Minneapolis; Salvation Army; the 1995 White House Conference on Aging, Minnesota and Washington, D.C.; among others. Roger was very active in local politics. Since 1971 he was a delegate to every city, county and/or state DFL Party convention and was a delegate in both 1975 and 1979 to the National Democratic Party conventions on Policy and Party Organizations. Roger is listed in Who's Who in American Politics. Roger served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Punjab, India from 1963-1965. In 2006 Roger received the Franklin H. Williams Award in Washington, D.C., one of eleven returned Peace Corps volunteers who made careers of giving back to their communities. According to the official press release, "the award honors Peace Corps volunteers of color who continue the Peace Corps mission through their commitment to community service and who support the agency's...goal of promoting a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans." Roger is survived by his son Logan and grandchildren Robert Tyler and Madison of Minneapolis. His brother, Robert Banks, Jr., formerly of Phoenix, Arizona, died in 2001. His marriage to Caroline Giles Banks ended in divorce. Roger's family and friends remember him for his gentle, generous, and steadfast spirit, critical intellect, and love of ethnic foods, music, and arts. A celebration of Roger's life will be held Saturday, November 10 at 11 a.m. at the Cremation Society of Minnesota, 4343 Nicollet Avenue South, Minneapolis, with visitation at 10 a.m. Memorials preferred to the Minneapolis Area United Way.




Published in Pioneer Press on Oct. 21, 2012
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