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REPUBLIC BANK

REPUBLIC BANK. Republic Bank was once the largest bank in Texas. The company, founded in 1920 by Eugene DeBogory, a graduate of the University of Texas law school as the Guaranty Bank and Trust Company, promised expanded operating hours for working people. Its earliest significant officer was Fred Florence, who rose from janitor to president of an Alto, Texas, state bank, and established a relationship with Guaranty that led to his hiring at that firm in the early 1920s. In 1922 Guaranty received a national charter, took the name Republic National Bank of Dallas, and assumed a modified Lone Star as its insignia. When the company moved to new quarters and agreed to service farm and ranch loans for another local business, it was required to establish a separate bank to adhere to laws regulating national banks. The Republic Trust and Savings Bank, formed to handle loan services, was absorbed by the parent company in 1928, when rules governing national banks changed. At that time the state-chartered Republic Trust and Savings Bank and the Republic National Bank of Dallas consolidated to form the Republic National Bank and Trust Company. Florence was responsible for the acquisition of North Texas National Bank in 1929, and for helping Republic both to survive and grow during the depression. He is also credited with helping other regional banks by investing in them during the banking crisis of 1933. In 1937 the Republic National Bank and Trust Company was renamed Republic National Bank of Dallas. Under Florence's administration, Republic took the lead in cotton financing and became involved in loans to oilmen shortly after the first major discoveries. In 1932, when proration regulated oil production in the East Texas oilfield, Republic made its first loan against oil reserves to the East Texas Refining Company. The bank introduced many innovations, ranging from extended hours to an international department to assist domestic firms, and was the fourth company in Texas to issue travelers' checks in 1938.

In what some consider his most important management decision, Florence organized a wholly owned subsidiary, the Howard Corporation, in 1946 to receive the petroleum properties of Republic National in exchange for its authorized capital stock. The company, which took its name from Howard County, Texas, where some of the oil properties were located, acquired numerous shares of Teléfonos de México, invested in twenty Texas banks, Highland Park Village and six other shopping centers, and undeveloped real estate, and paid huge dividends. By 1948 Republic was the largest bank in Texas. Howard's stock was transferred to a separate trust in 1955, but in 1973 the Federal Reserve Bank required Republic to divest itself of the Howard Corporation's nonbanking assets in order to form a holding company known as the Republic of Texas Corporation. At that time, James W. Aston, who became president of Republic in 1957 and served on the board of American Airlines, arranged for American's AA Development Corporation, a subsidiary, to acquire the bulk of Howard's assets.

In 1954 the firm altered the Dallas skyline by opening a landmark building designed by the firm of Harrison and Abramovitz. The new building also housed the Dallas Club, and was a major coup in an ongoing competition with Interfirst Corporation for the preeminent position in Texas banking. Funded primarily by profits, Republic had grown from $100,000 in capital at its founding in 1920 to $60 million by 1954. It was subsequently required to return to the capital markets as growth outstripped its ability to fund expansion internally.

By the 1980s, in an ongoing effort to expand, Republic had acquired the Houston National Bank and made significant loans to the real estate industry in Texas. As real estate fell in value in the late 1980s, however, so did the quality of Republic Bank's loan portfolio. By 1987 the firm needed reorganization and sought a merger partner. Believing that its rival, Interfirst Corporation, had survived the worst of its credit problems, Republic agreed to a merger which formed the First RepublicBank Corporation. Unfortunately, Interfirst Corporation's condition was no better than Republic's, and the new corporation failed within twelve months. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation closed all of the holding company's banks in what was then the largest bank failure in United States history, requiring over $3 billion to restore member banks to a zero capital position. In 1989 NCNB Corporation, a North Carolina bank holding company with banks in the South and Southeast, formed a Texas subsidiary to hold the stock of the failed banks of First RepublicBank Corporation. The subsidiary took 50 percent of the total stock, held an option for the other 50 percent owned by the FDIC, and merged all the banks into the NCNB Texas National Bank, National Association. In 1990 NCNB exercised its option to purchase the FDIC's interest, and in 1991 changed its name to NationsBank Corporation. At the same time, the name of its Texas subsidiaries changed to NationsBank of Texas, Incorporated, and NationsBank of Texas, National Association. Other significant Texas institutions acquired by NCNB included University Savings Association and NBC of Texas.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

New York Times, July 29, 1989. Texas Monthly, May 1974. U.S. News and World Report, August 15, 1988. Who's Who in the South and Southwest, Vol 2. H. Harold Wineburgh, The Texas Banker: The Life and Times of Fred Farrel Florence (Dallas, 1981).

Jeff Seidel

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Jeff Seidel, "REPUBLIC BANK," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/cor01), accessed November 25, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.