The AG Gaston Rules For Success

by Ron Haynes

Arthur George Gaston (July 4, 1892 – January 19, 1996) was prominent businessman who established a number of businesses in my hometown of Birmingham, Alabama.

gaston After serving in World War I, Gaston went to work as a miner in a town just outside of Birmingham. It was there he began his entrepreneurial pursuits, selling lunches to his fellow miners (he was mining the miners!). He must have done quite well because soon he began loaning money to those same miners, charging them credit card type rates of 25 percent and though that sounds like a lot, remember that it was during the Great Depression. Still working at the mine, he began offering burial insurance to co-workers and to the community, creating a small banking and insurance empire of sorts.

He opened an official Savings and Loan in the early 1950s, the first black owned financial institution in Birmingham in more than forty years. Gaston went on to build a huge financial and business empire, including a business college, a construction company, a motel, a real estate business, his original burial insurance company, two cemeteries, and two radio stations. When he passed away in 1996, his net worth was estimated at $130 million (about $190 million in 2014 dollars).

What were his rules for success?

I’ve carried around a clipping in my wallet for over 20 years with his “rules.” Given the mountains he overcame, from poverty to the racial discrimination of the 1950’s and 60’s, I think he has some valuable things to offer in the success category.

  • Save part of all you earn. Money doesn’t spoil, it keeps.
  • Establish a good [credit] reputation at a solid bank and establish a savings account there.
  • Take educated chances with your money.
  • Steer clear of gambling unless you have plenty of money to lose.
  • Never borrow anything that, if forced, you can’t pay back.
  • Don’t get big-headed with little fellows. That’s where the money is.
  • Don’t have so much pride. Wear the same suit for a year of two.
  • Find a need and fill it. Successful businesses are founded on the needs of people.
  • Stay in your own class. Never run around with people you can’t compete with.
  • Once you get money, or a reputation for having money, people will willingly give you money.
  • Once you reach a certain level, it’s actually hard NOT to make money.

About the author

Ron Haynes has written 1001 articles on The Wisdom Journal.

The founder and editor of The Wisdom Journal in 2007, Ron has worked in banking, distribution, retail, and upper management for companies ranging in size from small startups to multi-billion dollar corporations. He graduated Suma Cum Laude from a top MBA program and currently is a Human Resources and Management consultant, helping companies know how employees will behave in varying situations and what motivates them to action, assisting firms in identifying top talent, and coaching managers and employees on how to better communicate and make the workplace MUCH more enjoyable. If you'd like help in these areas, contact Ron using the contact form at the top of this page or at 870-761-7881.

If you enjoyed what you just read and would like to get FREE email updates with the freshest articles from The Wisdom Journal delivered right to your inbox, subscribe today! It's ridiculously easy and you can unsubscribe at any time. Since your email address is never sold or abused, you can subscribe with confidence, PLUS you'll get free reports/guides/eBooks, subscriber only benefits, and other perks.



I love hearing about stories of successful people that have all the odds stacked against them. This guy was black in 1950 Alabama and ran a successful bank/credit card/loan operation! That is crazy.

I always think to myself, WOW, when I hear a 70+ year old Woman talking about her college days, because in reality most men didn’t go to college nevertheless women.


I think this story just proves that the only thing standing in the way of your own success is you … that and the government.

Richard |

Don’t get big headed with little fellows that’s where the money is. Kinda sounds a bit bigheaded but overall some great tips. He is a huge inspiration as are many of the first black people to do something in the 1950′s.


I think he was referring to offering a product or service to lower income groups. That’s what he did to get started.

The Biz of Life

Great homespun tips. Sounds like this guy really knew how to compound money.

Jarad Gordan

Too bad Frank Matthews a notorious drug dealer amasssed a fortune of $300 million in the 70′s! I don’t think he followed any of these tips!


Too bad. Isn’t he still on the run after 37 years?

Kimberly Lyles

Mr. AG Gaston is my great uncle. I am just learning about him and meeting my dad. My brothers and I have begun to identify the things we have in common yet the things above you’ve actually studied and mentioned should so be adapted in our lifestyles. Thank you for this article. It gives me a sense of pride even though I know you have a greater purpose for it.


You should be VERY proud of your great uncle. He was a great man and an inspirational entrepreneur!


Interest rates of 25 percent? Not honorable!


Remember who he was lending to and the time period. This was the early 20′s leading up to The Great Depression and those type of rates were not uncommon. We have to be careful to not apply 21st century thinking to 1920 circumstances.

Previous post:

Next post: