Ernest Maier’s Legacy in the Potomac Valley

Since the inception of the annual AIAPV/PVAF Golf Outing, Ernest Maier, Inc. has been our lead sponsor, and its generous contributions have allowed all golf registration fees to be donated in support of PVAF’s education and outreach efforts. Tom Mitchell, Architectural Product Specialist at Ernest Maier and Vice President of PVAF, notes that, since its founding in 1926, EMCO Block has been integral to the foundation of the Washington DC region, supplying the brick and block for thousands of homes and buildings. We recently learned a personal history that attests to how Ernest Maier, the company’s namesake, also left a legacy of generosity and farsighted business practices throughout the Potomac Valley.

Bernie Smoot is a 93-year-old DC native who golfs almost every day, often at the UMD Golf Course. When he saw the registration area for our Golf Outing, with its Ernest Maier signage, he came over to say that Ernest Maier helped him build his first home, and then several more throughout the region. In 1952, Bernie had secured the blueprints and the lot for his new home, but couldn’t get bank financing. He met with Ernie Maier, who provided him the credit to buy all the brick and block he needed to build his house. As Bernie built additional houses in the region and expanded his business interests, Ernie Maier supported and advised him. “These sorts of things just didn’t happen in 1952 between a colored man and a white man,” Bernie says. “Ernie Maier made me a rich man.” Bernie still keeps the blueprints and a treasured photograph of that first house. 

Bernie Smoot has had a remarkable life. In high school, he apprenticed at Hahn’s, where he repaired Eleanor Roosevelt’s shoes. He served in WWII, first in Patton’s Third Army in Europe, and then in the Pacific (he was on Okinawa when the atomic bomb detonated on Hiroshima). Upon returning home, he used the GI Bill to earn his college degree, worked at least two full-time jobs simultaneously for over 30 years, invested successfully in many homes and businesses in the DC region, became wealthy, and retired 40 years ago. He credits Ernest Maier for enabling him to build his first home, for being a mentor, and for reaching across color barriers.

Since his retirement, Bernie has put as much energy into enjoying his free time as he previously devoted to his careers – which is why he’s on the golf course daily. And we’re glad he is, because that brought him to our registration desk and brought this story to our attention.

Article based on interview with Bernie Smoot.

Ernest Maier is a Gold Annual Partner of AIA Potomac Valley

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