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Ben Love

My Life in Texas Commerce

By Ben F. Love; Foreword by James A. Baker III

Publication Year: 2008

Serving as CEO of Texas Commerce Bancshares in the 1980s, during the collapse of the Texas banking industry, Ben Love had an inside view of the debacle. His story, told here in detail for the first time, provides an insightful perspective on the Texas banking industry’s evolution after World War II, its decline, and its subsequent recovery. It also offers a glimpse into of the kind of character that creates men of power. Love grew up with his family during the Great Depression. Their farm outside Paris, Texas, taught him hard lessons about opportunity and financial security lessons that would serve him well in the future. After America’s entry into war in 1941, Love flew 8th Air Force B-17 combat missions over Europe, and then settled in Houston with his business degree in the late 1940s. His entrance into the world of banking began as a member of the board of directors for River Oaks Bank & Trust. Houston was rapidly growing into a metropolis, and he accepted an offer to leave River Oaks to join Texas Commerce Bank in 1967. As president of Texas Commerce Bank (TCB) in 1969 and CEO in 197289, Love cultivated change from single banks to holding companies, garnering a national reputation for his banking organization. In 1984, Texas Commerce was the twenty-first-largest bank in the country. Under his competent management, TCB was the only Big Five Texas bank to survive the economic downturn. One reason for its continued success lies with Loves successful merger in 1987 with the Chemical Bank of New York, now J. P. Morgan Chase. Not only does Ben F. Love’s memoir reveal an inside look at the evolution of banking in Texas, but it will serve as an instructional guide to future business leaders and managers.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Series: Kenneth E. Montague Series in Oil and Business History

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pp. viii-ix

This book would not have been written without Joe Pratt, Cullen Professor of History and Business at the University of Houston. He and Walter Buenger wrote the history of Texas Commerce Bancshares in the 1980s, and the resulting book (Walter L. Buenger and Joseph A. Pratt, But Also Good Business: Texas Commerce Banks and the Financing of Houston and Texas, 1886–1986, ...

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pp. x-xii

Ben Love represents everything that is good about America. He started life with little more than a bright, inquisitive mind, a healthy frame that eventually stretched to six feet four, and parents who cherished probity and education. Yet, through hard work, attention to detail, and unwavering optimism, he became an influential banker and a civic pillar who shaped his industry ...

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Chapter 1. Growing Up in Paris

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pp. 1-24

I was born in 1924 in Vernon, Texas, a growing center of trade and family seemed destined to lead a comfortable middle-class life. I do not remember the details about our life in Vernon or even about the promise of the 1920s, but I do remember how that promise evaporated with the Crash. I do remember how my mother and dad and I spent the decade of the Great ...

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Chapter 2. Coming of Age During World War II

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pp. 25-43

I was sixteen years old when I left home for college in the fall of 1941, a young wide-eyed boy heading out into the world in search of education and opportunity. Over the next four years, I was educated in wholly unexpected ways. In rapid order, the national tragedy of Pearl Harbor focused my attention onto the outside world; then the personal ...

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Chapter 3. Growing Old Over Europe

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pp. 44-79

The most intense period of my life began on July 10, 1944, when my crew arrived at the 351st Bomb Group, Polebrook, East Anglia, England. This was to be my home for the next eleven months, during which time I felt that I matured and aged by at least eleven years. It was to be the base from which I flew my twenty-five missions, bombing ...

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Chapter 4. Back To The Real World

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pp. 80-103

I returned to the University of Texas in January 1946, a twenty-one-year-old Air Force captain-turned-sophomore determined to get a good education and eager to moveon with my life. A four-thousand dollar nest egg from my service pay and poker winnings, a parttime job, and the GI Bill would help make it happen. The Ben Love who returned ...

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Chapter 5. From Business To Banking

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pp. 104-116

After my three-year contract with Gibson-CIT expired in 1965, I took the “MBA” I had earned during my sixteen years in business and sought to apply it to the challenge of banking. Armed with my observations as an outside director on the River Oaks Bank & Trust Company1 board since 1956, the opportunities in banking increasingly captured ...

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Chapter 6. Downtown to Texas Commerce

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pp. 117-142

At Texas National Bank of Commerce I joined a major downtown Houston bank with a strong past but an uncertain future. The bank had been created by a merger of two of the city’s traditional banking leaders, Jesse Jones’s National Bank of Commerce (NBC) and Texas National Bank (TNB), one of the oldest and most aggressive banks in ...

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Chapter 7. Solidifying The Base, 1968-72

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pp. 143-167

My broader responsibilities as president gave me the opportunity to extend throughout the bank the organizational structure, the officer calling program, the quantified goals, and the budgets that had worked so productively in the Houston Metropolitan Division. I worked with Chairman John Whitmore and a good group of officers to ...

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Chapter 8. The Glory Years, 1972-84

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pp. 168-205

I was fortunate to be CEO of a major Texas bank during a time of great opportunity, and I assumed my new responsibility with grea tpassion for building TCB into one of the nation’s premier banks. Texas Commerce Bancshares took its initial steps toward creating a statewide bank holding company while I was president. Once the regulatory ...

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Chapter 9. A New home For Texas Commerce

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pp. 206-217

When I arrived at Texas Commerce Bank in April 1967, one of the first things I was told was that we needed a new building. Lloyd Bolton, who later became head of the Real Estate Group, was then in charge of TCB’s properties. He agreed. “Jesse Jones moved the bank into his new Gulf Building in 1929,” he said. “Today, the pipes are rusty ...

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Chapter 10. The Economic Downturn and Merging With Chemical Bank, 1983-89

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pp. 218-251

I spent my first fifteen years at Texas Commerce building a nationally prominent bank amid an oil boom, a vigorous regional and state economy, and an expansive bank holding company movement. I spent much of my last six years there working to defend the gains we had made in the 1970s and early 1980s. From 1983 through my retirement...

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Chapter 11. Striking a Balance

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pp. 252-281

When I joined Texas Commerce in 1967, I had the unshakable belief that the bank owned all of my time except Sundays. Because the bank owned my time, I reasoned, it seemed imperative to work on matters that would, much like Jesse Jones expressed, create a healthier, larger business climate for the city. His theory was that if we in the ...

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Chapter 12 The Lessons Of A Life

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pp. 282-314

More than sixty years after leaving Paris, Texas, for college, I returned there to visit the graves of my parents at the Evergreen Cemetery and my grandparents’ graves at the Hopewell Cemetery and to take a look at the farmhouse and the town. The house, so bright and large in the eyes of a child, seemed shrunken in size by my lifetime...


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pp. 315-331

E-ISBN-13: 9781603444149
E-ISBN-10: 1603444149
Print-ISBN-13: 9781603440493
Print-ISBN-10: 1603440496

Page Count: 352
Illustrations: 48 b&w photos. 6 tables. 1 fig.
Publication Year: 2008

Series Title: Kenneth E. Montague Series in Oil and Business History