Inside the wisdom and work of Frank B. Coakley

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Frank B. Coakley (Courtesy Photo)

By Ralph E. Moore
Special to the AFRO

Frank B. Coakley was Chief Lending Officer for Baltimore Community Lending when he died. He was a genius with finance as well as a gentle giant among the citizens of Baltimore and the state of Maryland where he worked. He was a businessman, a banker and an adviser to many.  He was a quiet man, when others were loud and opinionated. Oftentimes Coakley, the smartest person in the room, was a problem solver and a project fixer.  

Frank knew housing and community development financing—that is, how to make money work for better housing and neighborhoods for others.  But in listening to those who knew him well, it was just as much how he did as what he did. 

According to Karen Brooks of the Community Development Administration, where she worked as a Finance Compliance Officer, “Frank would stop by the desks of the 250 everyday office-workers in the mornings to greet and check in with us.  And he would joke, ‘Don’t make any deals where I’d (that is, he’d) have to go to jail.” She said, “He was the boss at the time and he was both nice and knowledgeable.”

Former Mayor Sheila Dixon remembers Coakley during her tenure as a reliable state financing advisor who was very helpful and very supportive. “He was always upbeat,” she recalled. “He would always help you figure out how to make a project work.”

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Friends admired him as well as co-workers and colleagues.

“Frank and I were the best of friends for 65 years,” said developer Daniel P. Henson III. “We met when we were 13 years old, growing up in West Baltimore.” They never went to the same school– Frank went to City College and Dan attended Edmondson High School until they got to Morgan State College. While there they never took any of the same classes—Henson majored in history and Coakley was a business major. Over the years, Frank’s thoughtful advice to his best friend was, “Dan, you need to talk less and listen more.”

A quintessential Coakley story, according to Henson, the former City Housing Commissioner, goes like this: When there was a problem with financing on a project, Frank would convene a meeting of all the parties involved.  He would sit there and listen to everybody and ask each person, “You got anything else?” and then he would move folks along.  “At the end of the two-hour meeting, Frank would sum everything up and bring everyone along in agreement to the solution.” “People never left any of Frank’s meetings upset,” Henson remembers fondly. For those who wanted to make a post agreement point, Frank’s regular response was, “Points are for losers.”  That was his consensus-building way of making sure the deal was sealed for sure. Frank Coakley and Danny Henson were known as ‘two peas in a pod.’

Valerie Fraling and Frank Coakley were among a group of good friends who hung out together on Friday nights for forty years. They could be found at either the Five Mile House, Ruth’s Chris, Tequila Sunset in Upton or Colin’s Seafood and Grill with a crowd of seasoned folks and young people anxious to learn something.  Frank in his coat and tie, still dressed from work would get his Coors Light served first and would talk business with the young professionals until Henson would shoo them away.  

Coakley was one of the founders of the Iota Phi Theta  service Fraternity now with 30,000 members globally.  Frank built consensus, saved people’s jobs, kept his sense of humor and made a real difference.  

Final arrangements for Frank Coakley

March 5, 2021

4-6 p.m.

Family Hour

March Tribute Center 

5616 Old Court Rd 

Randallstown MD 21244 

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March 6, 2021

10 a.m. Wake

11 a.m. Guardsmen Service

11:30 a.m. Alpha Iota Omega Service (All attending brothers are asked to wear  Brown and Gold)

12 noon Funeral

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Murphy Fine Arts Center

Morgan State University

2201 Argonne Drive

Baltimore MD 21251