Penn Zeigler was born in Virginia around 1897, the son of Peter Burgess Zeigler and America Spencer Zeigler. When Penn Zeigler was five-years-old, his uncle, Cincinnati businessman Major Lee Zeigler, lured the family to Cincinnati. Penn’s mother died three years later, leaving his father to raise seven children. Penn worked a number of jobs from herding cows, to pitting cherries, to working in a glass factory. He was listed as a chauffeur when he enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1917. After serving in France and earning the Croix de Guerre, he was discharged as a sergeant in 1919.
Soon after returning home, Penn married Marie Jackson. They had two children, Ralph and Helen. In 1926, Zeigler got a job as a mailman, which he kept for 22 years until shoulder problems caused him to retire. At that point, his uncle, Major Zeigler, again became prominent in his life.
Major Lee Zeigler was born in North Carolina in 1871. He came to Cincinnati as a young man and worked for the gas company. He saved $500 with which he became a coal dealer. As he made more money, he expanded into a moving and storage business that was incorporated in 1919 as the Zeigler-Schaefer Company. He became the most influential businessman in the East End, employing both white and black workers. He was often asked to lend his employees money until payday, which led him to start the first black savings and loan in Cincinnati: Major Federal Savings and Loan. His storage business eventually perished, so Major Zeigler concentrated on his savings and loan company and later started the Zeigler Realty Company. Major Zeigler died in 1960.
After retiring from the Post Office, Penn Zeigler went to work for his uncle. He became president of Major Federal Savings and Loan, and he and his son also operated Zeigler Realty
Aside from his business and political career, Zeigler made many civic achievements. In the early 1920s, he became involved in the Boy Scouts of America and earned every award including the “Silver Buffalo”, the organization’s highest honor. He was the first African American to serve on Cincinnati’s Dan Beard Region Boy Scout Council. He also served on the boards of the Urban League, the Community Action Commission, the Community Chest Social Action Commission, and was an Episcopal layman at St. Michael and All Angels Church. He died on January 8, 1982.