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Black History Month Spotlight: Mary Thelma Washington

Written on Feb 11, 2021

Mary Thelma (Morrison) Washington, born April 21, 1906, was the country’s first Black female CPA. 

Photograph of Mary T. Washington.

She was born in Vicksburg Mississippi to Daisy and William Morrison, but at the age of six, after her mother’s passing, she moved to Chicago to live with her grandparents. 

She attended Wendell Phillips High School where she excelled as a math student. Afterward, she started working as the assistant to Arthur J. Wilson, America’s second Black CPA, at Binga State Bank of Chicago. 

In fact, it was Wilson who encouraged Washington to pursue a business degree at Northwestern University, and in doing so, helped her gain the experience she needed to become a CPA. 

In 1939, while still a student, Washington decided to open her own accounting firm from her basement. This firm largely served small Black-owned companies since many white owned firms would not hire Black Americans at the time. Therefore, Washington is credited for giving many aspiring Black accountants the opportunity to sit for their CPA. 

Binga State Bank and Arthur J. Wilson photograph collage.

In 1941, Washington graduated from Northwestern University and in 1943, she became the first Black female CPA and the 13th Black CPA in the country. 

Shortly after, Washington dedicated herself to serving the Black middle class of Chicago. In doing so, her firm, Washington, Pittman and McKeever became one of the largest Black-owned CPA firms in the country. 

She retired from the firm in 1985 at the age of 79 and on July 2, 2005, Washington passed away at a nursing home in Chicago at the age of 99. 

Woman smiling for camera.

 

Top: Mary T. Washington

Middle: Binga State Bank and Arthur J. Wilson

Bottom: Mary T. Washington