Brenda Thomas, who made her mark in history as the first African-American hired at East Texas Professional Credit Union’s Marshall branch, has retired after 30 years of service.

She was the third African-American to work for the overall Credit Union system and the first African-American woman. The board, management and staff recently celebrated her leadership and service to the organization with a retirement celebration, held at the Marshall office.

“Brenda is going to be sorely missed,” said ETPCU President and CEO Byron Norton.

“She is one of those employees that really takes to heart the Credit Union philosophy, which is to know your members,” said Norton. “We know our members as individuals.”

Norton said Thomas is highly respected by both customers and members of the community.

“She has done a great job of (endearing) herself to the Marshall community. She is loved and respected by many,” he said.

“There are so many people that come in and they’ll wait for an hour to see Brenda, even if somebody else is available,” Norton continued. “That’s a testament.”

“She’s a great loan officer and been committed to us at the Credit Union, but we understand everybody has to retire sooner or later,” he added. “We’re going to miss her very much.”

Local branch manager Natalie Bunger echoed Norton’s sentiments.

“I actually managed Brenda for two-and-a-half years now, and she has taught me lots of knowledge,” said Bunger. “She’s given me a fair amount of what she’s learned over the years and different things that have changed at the Credit Union.”

Bunger spoke highly of Thomas’ dedication and described the loan officer as irreplaceable.

“Her dedication cannot be duplicated or replaced,” said Bunger. “She is definitely a great employee. If she ever decides to come back, we definitely have a home here for her because I’m going to miss her, for sure.”

Thomas said she was given the opportunity, on Sept. 17, 1990, to begin a new career in the financial world with what was then East Texas Teachers Credit Union.

“Recently, a few members reminded me that I was the first African-American to work in the Marshall office,” she shared. “I receive that as an honor and groundbreaking for the Marshall community.”

Thomas said she considers it an honor to have paved the way for others. Not only is she the first African-American at the Marshall branch, but she’s also the first employee to have worked at the same branch the entire duration and officially retire.

“Working for ETPCU has contributed greatly to my personal and professional development,” said Thomas.

Thomas first started her journey at the Credit Union as a teller. She then advanced to teller supervisor. Thomas was also put in charge over new accounts and was later promoted as financial service representative/loan officer.

During her tenure at ETPCU, she has represented the financial institution in the community by serving on local school site-based boards, including Communities In Schools and Marshall High School Career and Technology board. Additionally, she has conducted speaking engagements at Marshall High School and at Wiley College, teaching young adults about finance.

“I have many memories and friendships of both coworkers and members that I will cherish for the rest of my life,” said Thomas. “I am truly blessed to have worked for East Texas Professional Credit for 30 years and four days.”

Thomas shared that she and her husband of nearly 41 years, Charles Thomas, have raised two wonderful daughters. She said in the last 30 years, she’s spent just as much time with her ETPCU family as her own family.

“With that being said, I can truly say passionately I enjoyed my job and my work family,” said Thomas.

And although she has retired, Thomas said her commitment to the financial institution will continue.

“I was a member before I was an employee and I will continue to be a member of ETPCU,” Thomas shared.

Fellow loan officer Alexis Turner said Thomas has been more than a colleague. She views Thomas as her mentor.

“She’s very sweet. She’s very loving. She’s was always very helpful when I first started working here,” said Turner. “She would just help me with life issues by talking to me, encouraging me ...just anything that she could do to help me out and get me encouraged and lifted in Christ and at the Credit Union.

“She’s like a mom to all of us, because when we needed help she didn’t mind helping,” Turner added. “She never told you no. I’m going to miss her.”