A Brief History of America’s First Federal Credit Union
America’s First Federal Credit Union was originally formed during the Great Depression on July 23, 1936 when nineteen men employed by United States Steel Corporation, formerly, Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railway Company pooled their resources with only $1,500 and 115 members. The first funds of the credit union were held in a cigar box. The new credit union was known as The Iron and Steel Workers Credit Union, and was able to offer a share account and members could obtain loans that were co-signed by their co- workers. The purpose of the new credit union was to establish a financial foundation for others that could lead to a better lifestyle and restore prosperity to the community. The new credit union grew rapidly and by the end of 1936, the credit union had 822 members, 357 borrowers and assets of $17,982. The credit union operated only three days a week and was housed in the Ensley Works of United States Steel.
The new credit union continued to grow throughout the rest of the 1930’s and early 1940’s, and by 1946, the Iron and Steel Workers Credit Union had grown to 3,130 members and had assets of $387,543. In March of 1946, the young credit union was able to purchase its first headquarters on Avenue E in Ensley.
In the 1950’s under new professional management, the credit union continued to grow and was able to purchaser a larger headquarters building on 18th Street in Ensley in 1956, that remained the main office of the credit union for the next 24 years. By 1959, the credit union had grown in assets to $5,925,475 and reached 10,000 members. A decade later in 1969, the credit union had grown to over $22 million in assets.
After several years of steady growth resulting in assets reaching over $48 million and 4 branch locations, the credit union changed its name to the Iron and Steel Credit Union in 1975. By the end of the 1970’s the credit union served over 62,000 members and had fully automated its systems and added checking and money market accounts and real estate loans to its suite of services.
The 1980’s began with the credit union moving into its new home office building at 1200 4th Avenue, North and began expanding its branch network and field of membership to include non-steel related industries in response to the steel crisis of the early 1980’s. The credit union began new services including Automated Teller Machines, Voice Response Telephone banking, Individual Retirement Accounts, home equity loans and credit cards. On July 1, 1985, the credit union’s Board of Directors approved a name change to America’s First Credit Union to reflect a larger and more diverse field of membership that was no longer restricted to steel related industries. That same year, the credit union reached $200 million in assets.
During the 1990’s and beyond, the credit union continued to grow and began offering electronic services that included debit cards, on-line and mobile banking, an interactive website, bill payment and added indirect lending to the consumer loan portfolio. In 1994, the Board of Directors approved a change to become a federally chartered credit union that was approved by the membership. On December 19, 1994, the federal charter was approved and our name changed to America’s First Federal Credit Union.
In 2005, The Board approved a change in the credit union’s charter to become a community chartered credit union. No longer restricted to select employer groups, eligible members included individuals and businesses that live, work, worship or attend school in Bibb, Blount, Chilton, Jefferson, Shelby and Walker counties along with underserved areas of Calhoun, Talladega and Mobile Counties.
In 2010, America’s First Federal Credit Union reached $1 billion in assets and had grown to 18 branches serving over 100,000 members. By 2019, America’s First has assets over $1.6 billion and over 167,000 members and 19 branch locations.