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Learn about Major Lee Zeigler


Penn Zeigler
Penn Zeigler in his WW1 uniform

Major Lee Zeigler was born in North Carolina and came to Cincinnati as a young man. He worked for the gas company and saved $500, with which he became a coal dealer. As Zeigler made more money, he expanded into a moving and storage business incorporated in 1919 as the Zeigler-Schaefer Company.  


Zeigler became the most influential businessman in the East End, employing both white and Black workers. He was often asked to lend his employees money until payday, which inspired him to start Major Savings and Loan in 1922.


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 Labor agitators burned Zeigler-Schaefer’s moving equipment, so Major concentrated on his savings and loan enterprise and started the Zeigler Realty Company. In the 1950s, Zeigler acquired another Black-owned savings and loan in Cincinnati, Horace Sudduth’s Industrial Building and Loan, converted to federal regulations and renamed the business Major Federal Savings and Loan. 


Penn Zeigler, Major’s nephew, was born in Virginia and relocated to Cincinnati to be closer to his uncle. For work, Penn herded cows and pitted cherries before he enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1917. After serving in France and earning the Croix de Guerre, he was discharged as a sergeant in 1919.


Related Article: The History of African Americans in Cincinnati



Returning after the war, Penn married, had a family, and worked as a mailman for 22 years when an injury forced his retirement. He then went to work for his uncle, became president of Major Federal Savings and Loan, and, along with his son, Ralph, operated Zeigler Realty. 


At 71, Penn got his first taste of politics when asked to chair a citizens’ committee in Lincoln Heights. He was elected Mayor (1967 to 1971) and won millions of dollars in federal grants for urban renewal. After the civil unrest of the late 1960s, Penn chose not to run for re-election. 



Related Article: Stories of the Underground Railroad and the Important Ties to Cincinnati



Major Lee Major
Major Lee Major Obituary

Besides his business and political career, Penn Zeigler had many civic accomplishments. In the early 1920s, he was the first African American to serve on Cincinnati’s Dan Beard Region Boy Scout Council. Zeigler served on the Lincoln Heights Urban League boards, the Community Action Commission, and the Community Chest Social Action Commission and was an Episcopal layman at St. Michael and All Angels Church.


Major Federal Savings and Loan was the longest-lived African American savings and loan in Cincinnati, operating in Walnut Hills from 1921 until 1986. Pauline Allen Strayhorne and Penn’s son, Ralph, led the company after Penn’s retirement.  




Major Savings and Loan | Walnut Hills History (
Cincinnati History Library and Archives –



About The First 28

The First 28, graciously sponsored by the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, celebrates Black Cincinnatians who were the first in their fields. Each day during Black History Month, we will celebrate athletes, artists, business leaders, civil rights activists, educators, physicians, and politicians.



The Voice of Black Cincinnati is a media company designed to educate, recognize, and create opportunities for African Americans. Want to find local news, events, job posting, scholarships, and a database of local Black-owned businesses? Visit our homepage, explore other articles, subscribe to our newsletter, like our Facebook page, join our Facebook group, and text VOBC to 513-270-3880.


Images provided by Cincinnati Museum Library and the Cincinnati 


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Written by Sophie Barsan

Sophie Barsan is a writer at The Voice of Black Cincinnati, where she covers events and client -focused content. Sophie's work is central to keeping the community informed about Cincinnati vibrant array of activities and opportunities. Her dedication to exploring and highlighting the city's cultural richness makes her stories a must-read for anyone looking to engage with the local scene. Connect with Sophie on LinkedIn for a deeper look into her articles and contributions.

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