I’ve never written my column like this before. I’ve never commented in this space about a former OBA chairman who has passed away, and there have been a few.
I should have. I should have paid proper tribute to these outstanding leaders.
Over the past 31 years,
there have been several who have passed on to better things and a better place: Some of those include Tracy Kelly, Morrison Tucker, Bob Empie, Harry Leonard, Glen “Red” Ward, Murlin Derebery, Gene Wheeler, Bruce Raines and Stan White. All of these men were great leaders of this industry and I considered many of them close friends.
On the first day of this month, another name was added to this group of bank leaders, and he was one of the best: Homer Paul. He was 86-years young and was a very strong leader of this industry.
Born on a farm near Pauls Valley, he graduated from OU in 1954 and became a Marine. Marines are tough. They are trained to be mean and nasty in combat, and many of them excelled at this desired behavior. But Homer wasn’t mean and nasty in any way. Funny, to be sure, but not nasty.
There used to be a television commercial about recruiting for the Marine Corps, asking viewers if “you were good enough to get in.” I wasn’t – although I did manage to get into the Army.
But Homer was “good enough.” He put in 30 years on active duty and in the Marine Corps Reserve. He retired as a “full-bull” colonel.
Homer went to the OU Law School when his active duty commitment was over, and when he graduated, he began his outstanding career in banking. He started out at Liberty National Bank in Oklahoma City (which ultimately became JPMorgan Chase) and served in many capacities. And in 1976, he became president and CEO at Nichols Hills Bank, where he served until 1988.
I first met Homer in 1979, right after I started with the Nebraska Bankers Association. He was a very quick wit, funny, kind and genuine. He always had a story about some crazy thing that supposedly happened in his presence. He made me laugh.
I ran into him in the spring of 1980, when he and Bill Crawford came to Lincoln, “just for the heck of it” they both told me. But I knew why they were there. They were recruiting Bob Harris to come to the OBA, and Bob did go shortly after that trip. That was just a couple of years before the Penn Square collapse some 37 years ago. Bob was with the OBA until 1988 and served the Association and the industry through the oil bust and the collapse of commercial real estate and agriculture lending.
Even though he was in the OBA’s “Past Presidents Club,” Homer was still a good friend and a better counselor. He joined Citizens Security Bank in Bixby in 1989 and retired in 2004. But he was always available to chat, give me his advice and regale me with yet another story. He made me laugh, no matter what the issue du jour was at the time.
I shall miss him. Oklahoma will miss him. He was one of the best people I know. And I wanted to thank him – belatedly – for his great service as the OBA’s president, and for everything else he’s done for this industry.