Ed Mulkey, 81, had a hand in many Cobb businesses

Ed Mulkey became a local force in Cobb County banking.
Ed Mulkey became a local force in Cobb County banking.

Credit: Courtesy of the family

Credit: Courtesy of the family

Three turning points steered Ed Mulkey’s life toward becoming a go-to guy in Cobb County’s banking community.

The first was a horrible auto accident.

“When he was 15 and driving without a license, he had a wreck,” said wife Marie Mulkey. The vehicle hit a utility pole, and Mulkey lost his right eye from a resulting injury.

“That probably contributed to his being somewhat introverted for years,” she said. She thinks it also galvanized him to work hard — he eventually earned both a Bachelor of Business Administration and executive Master of Business Administration in accounting from Georgia State.

The second turning point was his falling into the banking world. A friend of Marie’s father’s got Mulkey a job at First National Bank of Atlanta in collections, and he proved doggedly persistent.

“I remember he once had to repossess a baby bed,” said Marie Mulkey.

The third was Mulkey’s conscious decision as he began to rise in the banking world to become more gregarious by keeping a trademark smile on his face and making a point of learning workers’ and customers’ names and back stories.

His natural and developed skills and passion for bettering the community led to a 45-year-career in community banking and also in giving back to Marietta and environs. Mulkey chartered two banks, was president and CEO at three more and served in key roles in community organizations.

James Edward Mulkey, Jr., 81, of Marietta died Nov. 6 of complications from dementia and renal failure. He’s survived by his wife, sons Patrick and Michael and their wives, a sister, four grandchildren and a great-granddaughter. A graveside service was held Nov. 14.

Ed Mulkey became a local force in Cobb County banking.
Ed Mulkey became a local force in Cobb County banking.

Credit: Courtesy of the family

Credit: Courtesy of the family

Long-time Cobb banker Joe Daniell recalled that Mulkey’s ability to put people at ease defined his style.

As a business development specialist at Marietta Commercial Bank in 1967, Daniell decided to prospect with the district office of a major insurance company. Mulkey, who was his boss and the bank’s senior executive vice president, went along to help.

Daniell recalled that during a wide-ranging conversation, the district manager marveled, “Do you realize you’re the first bankers who have ever walked through my door? Your little bank might be onto something.” He later gave them his business.

Associates said Mulkey would position his office near the main bank entrance, allowing him to spot and chat with incoming customers. Each employee got a daily personal greeting, but he was also tough and held them to high standards.

His friends praised his integrity, willingness to mentor, judgement of character and sure business sense.

Marie Mulkey said her husband once took a troubled bank under a federal cease-and-desist order for poor management back to profitability in six months. He also counseled many divorced and widowed women, helping them chart their financial futures, and he hired and mentored people from the community.

Ben Walker, a commercial lender with a local credit union, was job hunting in 1990 after his family clothing business closed.

“I had no banking experience. And nobody would give me an opportunity,” he recalled.

Mulkey did, getting him hired as a manager trainee at First Peoples Bank in Marietta, then guiding him. He told Walker banking was a people business, just as the clothing business was.

“It was just a different product,” Mulkey said.

Walker recalled that Mulkey, who as bank president sat on the loan committee, would depart from the standard bank playbook when vetting loans for those he had a hunch would succeed.

“A guy came in who wanted to start a store to sell wild bird seed he’d developed for different kinds of birds. Nobody would give this guy a loan. Ed believed in him and granted him a loan, and the guy wound up with five stores and being very successful, " he said

Mulkey was instrumental in particular in helping establish local doctors and other medical practices.

His love of his community also came out in roles such as serving as the founding president of the Kennesaw State Alumni Society, as congregational head of his church five times, and taking key roles in high-profile community projects such as the restoration of Marietta’s historic Strand Theater.

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