Photo credits: Black Enterprise Magazine
Ernesta G. Procope (pictured) was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1923. She was an investment banker.
Procope began studying piano when she was a little child. She made her Carnegie Hall debut at the age of 13, demonstrating early promise as a piano prodigy. By the 1940s, when she graduated from high school, her interests had shifted away from music and toward real estate and insurance. In 1953, she founded E.G. Bowman, a private insurance agency that served the mostly African-American residents who lived in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn.
Procope, who was president and CEO at the time, made history in 1979 by relocating her firm from its Brooklyn storefront to 97 Wall Street. The E.G. Bowman Company was the first African American-owned business to establish a presence on Wall Street. Procope was named official broker for the New York City Housing Authority and insurance broker for the Alaska Pipeline construction in the United States.
Among the company’s clients are IBM, Avon Products, Philip Morris Companies, General Motors, and Time Warner. It is licensed in each of the fifty states. Bowman Specialty Services, LLP established and leads Procope. This division of her organization provides engineering and safety services.
Procope was honored at a 1972 White House reception when First Lady Patricia Nixon bestowed the Woman of the Year award on her. She has served on boards as a director of various corporate and community non-profit organizations, including The Chubb Corporation, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and the New York Urban League. Procope was appointed by President Gerald Ford as a Special Ambassador to the Gambia. Additionally, she has served as head of the Adelphi University Board of Trustees and as a trustee at Cornell and Adelphi Universities.
Howard University, Adelphi University, and Marymount Manhattan College have all conferred honorary Doctor of Laws degrees on Procope, as has Morgan State University with a Doctor of Humane Letters degree. She has received a flurry of awards. In 1993, Ernst & Young named her Entrepreneur of the Year. Ms. Procope was inducted into the African American Hall of Fame in 2003 and was selected for the Minority Business Hall of Fame and Museum in 2006.
Procope’s 40-year husband was John Procope (who died in 2005). He previously worked in advertising and was the publisher of the New York Amsterdam News. Additionally, Mr. Procope served as a trustee of Howard University.
According to her brother-in-law, Frederick O. Terrell (as reported by the New York Times), she died on November 30, 2021, in her Queens, New York, residence.