Banking pioneer's inspiring story of success - FOX 13 News

Banking pioneer's inspiring story of success

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

Bob Samuels has conquered some of the toughest odds a person can face. He was born into poverty, grew up in segregation, and then fought cancer three times.

None of that could stop Bob Samuels. His success story is "What's Right with Tampa Bay."

He came from nothing and rose to the top of the banking and financial world.

Samuels started his banking career in 1962. In 1964, he joined First Pennsylvania Bank and became their first black loan officer.

He retired in 1992 as Vice President of the Global Financial Institutions Group.

Samuels proudly shows off what he calls his "I love me wall." There's a "who's who" of celebrity photos—all friends of his. There is Whoopi Goldberg, Bill Cosby, Lou Rawls. And then there's the power elite:

"There's my #1 friend General Schwartzkopf, Senator Bob Dole," he points out.

Samuels has certainly had a wonderful life, but it didn't start off that way.

"I was the only child of a 16-year-old unwed mother from the ghetto," he says.

He grew up In Philadelphia, before the civil rights movement, when there was little opportunity and little tolerance.

"You have to be focused and determined. And I guess that's the story that my life has been about," he says.

He tells his story in his new autobiography, Don't Tell Me I Can't.

"People used to say things like, you'll never gonna amount to this, and you'll never do that, because of a whole lot of negativity that surrounds poverty and despair," he says.

Just like he fought his way out of poverty, he had to fight his way back to good health. Cancer struck him three times, and he slayed it each and every time.

He has a simple philosophy that he lives by and encourages all youth to embrace, regardless of race or circumstance.

"Be driven, don't give up," he says.

Samuels has also dedicated his time to community service. Several years ago, former Mayor Pam Iorio presented him with Tampa's Outstanding Citizen Award.

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