In the late 1960s, First State Bank & Trust Company began publishing a group photograph of all its employees in the Log Cabin Democrat, wishing everyone a Merry Christmas. Every Christmas, the bank lobby would be beautifully decorated for the season. This photograph was taken 50 years ago. Some of the ladies pictured in the photograph helped identify the people in it.
The group is pictured around the Christmas tree that stood in the lobby of the bank, which was located on the southwest corner of Oak and Front. Many pictured here were in the banking business until they retired. They have remained friends through the years, keeping in touch with one another.
While the original First State Bank building at 908 Front Street no longer exists, this First State Bank building, constructed in 1960, today houses Conway City Hall. The 4,000-square-foot second floor was added in 1973 to accommodate the continued growth into a full-service bank.
Thomas G. Wilson (front row on left), who co-founded the bank with W.D. Ketcheside, was the President and Chairman of the Board at this time. He was very personable and kind, presiding over an era of banking which was more personal. Those wishing to borrow money went to see Mr. Wilson.
A graduate of Conway High School and Hendrix College, Wilson began his banking career in 1922 as an assistant cashier at the Bank of Conway. He and Ketcheside founded the bank in 1946.
Mr. Wilson played a major role in the economic development of Conway. He was a charter member of the Conway Development Corporation and was a leading force in developing the Conway Industrial Park. He served as President of the CDC until 1981 and Thomas G. Wilson Drive in the Industrial Park is named for him.
Wilson is also legendary for giving an economic forecast every year to the Rotary Club. He gave his first economic outlook speech to the Kiwanis Club in 1954 but began doing the presentation for the Rotary Club a few years later. He continued this tradition for 30 years until 1985, when he had to yield the duty to Dr. Morris Lamberson due of illness.
In 1984, First State Bank outgrew the facility at Front and Oak and built a new three-story brick structure where its Eastside Branch had been located at 719 Harkrider. It was also in 1984 that First State Bank became a part of Worthen Banking Corporation. The bank would then become Boatmen’s Bank, Nation’s Bank and then Bank of America. Home Bancshares would occupy the upstairs offices before it eventually occupied the whole building.
Mr. Wilson resigned as chair and president of the bank in early 1982, but continued to serve as chairman of the bank’s executive committee until his death in 1985.
Thank you all for reading my columns over the last couple of years! I hope you have enjoyed reading every week! Beginning in the new year, A Look Back will be in the Tuesday edition of the paper. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Cindy Burnett Beckman is a retired Conway High School history teacher who writes local history. She may be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.