Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 5, Number 2, May, 1995 Page: 105
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Rancher to Bank President
by William H. Harrison
"A bird in hand is worth two ..."
The unique story of how a local rancher swapped sides of the desk and became a banker.
When my two uncles, William and Henry Dittman, died [in 1926], they each
willed me a thousand dollars. My dad invested the money in American Telephone and
Telegraph Company stock. Later on, he bought me shares of stock in other corporations,
like General Electric (because my brother went to work for them), and Texaco, Inc.
(because we used Texaco gas in our cars). So I became a shareholder at an early age,
and early on I grew accustomed to getting notices and proxy statements from these
corporations inviting me to attend their annual shareholders' meetings. When my mother
died in 1936 I inherited some of her shares of stock in the First National Bank of Eagle
Lake. One cold misty afternoon in 1958, I was going from the ranch at Alleyton with a
pickup load of hay and cotton-seed cake to feed my cows in a pasture south of Eagle
Lake. As I drove through town I remembered getting a notice of the bank's annual
meeting to be at 2 p. m. on that very day. I pulled over to the curb, parked my pickup,
and went into the bank just as they were locking the doors. A teller offered to wait on
me, thinking I either wanted to make a deposit or cash a check. I told the teller I had just
come to attend the shareholders' meeting. Though everyone in the bank was surprised,
I was graciously escorted to the directors room where all of the bank directors were
seated around an oval table. Over in one corner sat an elderly man, Mr. Raymond
Jochetz. All of the directors knew who I was, so there was no need for introductions.
I told them about getting proxies from all the companies in which I held stock, but had
never attended a shareholders' meeting and would like to attend this one. They could
not have been more cordial or glad to see me. The chairman opened the meeting very
formally, then went through most of the business that was customary at an annual
meeting. Then I noticed one of the men write something on a notepad and pass it to the
other directors, each of whom read it, smiled, and gave an affirmative nod of his head.
When the pad finally reached the chairman, he stood up and very formally said, "Mr.
Harrison, would you consent to be a director of this bank?"
Well, I pretty nearly slid right out of my chair. As I was trying to think of a suitable
reply, the president of the bank, Mr. Will Lenhart, said, "You know, there is a $50.00
fee paid for each meeting." Wheels began to turn in my head and I thought, "Here's a
calf every month and I don't have to feed the cow." Fifty dollars, you see, was about
what a young calf would sell for in 1958.
I thanked the directors very much but told them I would like to sleep on the idea
and would let them know the next day. I told them that the Columbus State Bank was
offering me the same opportunity if I could get the required number of shares of their
stock. Mr. Lenhart then told me, "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush."
One of the older and more prominent directors, Hayes Stephens, had recently
[on October 7, 1957] been killed in an auto accident, leaving a vacancy on the board.
Here’s what’s next.
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Nesbitt Memorial Library. Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 5, Number 2, May, 1995, periodical, May 1995; Columbus, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth151394/m1/37/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed July 28, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.