Fred Farrel Florence, banker and civic leader, was born in New York City on November 5, 1891, to Lithuanian immigrants Mose and Celia (Freedman) Fromowitz. His family moved in 1892 to New Birmingham, Texas, then two years later to Rusk, where he attended public school through the tenth grade, worked in the family store, sold newspapers, and, like his brothers and sister, legally changed his name to Florence. At age fifteen he began his life's work at the First National Bank in Rusk. He advanced to assistant cashier by 1911 and moved on to positions as bookkeeper at the American Exchange Bank in Dallas (1911), cashier at the First State Bank in Ratcliff (1912), and vice president (1912), then president (1915) of the Alto State Bank.
Florence enlisted in the Signal Corps Aviation School of the United States Army with the rank of corporal in 1918 and was discharged later that year as a second lieutenant. He then returned to his bank presidency in Alto and later served as a town alderman, then mayor (1919). In 1920 he became first vice president of the Guaranty Bank and Trust Company, which became Republic National Bank and Trust Company in 1922 and was renamed Republic National Bank of Dallas in 1937. Florence was president from 1929 until 1957, when he became chairman of the executive committee with the duties of chief executive officer.
He took a lead in commodity financing, especially of cotton and oil reserves; he supplanted many northern credit facilities and made his bank one of the first Texas banks to extend loans on oil reserves and natural-gas production. Under his direction deposits at his bank increased from $1 million to almost $900 million. Florence was also a director of several other Texas banks and businesses, including Lone Star Steel (where he also served as board chairman), Bond Stores, Wyatt Industries, the MKT Railroad Company, Dallas Power and Light, the Austin Bridge Company, the Hotel Baker, Sanger Brothers, and Neiman Marcus. He was a member of the executive committee and vice president of the Dallas Joint Stock Land Bank. He was active in the American Bankers Association in 1934, served on the National Defense and War Loan committee (1941–44), chaired the Credit Policy Commission of the American Bankers Association (1951–54), and was elected vice president (1954) and president (1955) of the American Bankers Association. He was president of the Texas Bankers Association (1956) and a director of the Texas Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association.
In addition to his banking interests, Florence was appointed by governors Ross S. Sterling and Miriam A. Ferguson and President Franklin Roosevelt to serve on various recovery and relief boards during the Great Depression. He was president of the Texas Centennial Central Exposition in 1936 and of the Greater Texas and Pan-American Exposition the following year. He was a board member of the State Fair of Texas and also served the Dallas Civic Federation, Citizens Council, Clearing House, and Chamber of Commerce, as well as the city's art, opera, symphony, and historical organizations. He was a member of the executive committees of Southern Methodist University, where a building is named for him, and the Southwestern Medical Foundation, of which he was also a trustee; a director of the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, the Southwest Research Institute, and the Research and Educational Foundation; and a trustee of Hebrew Union College and St. Mark's School of Texas. He was also vice president, treasurer, and a member of the executive and endowment committees of the Texas Research Foundation. He served on the boards of Dallas United Charities and other welfare organizations from the 1920s to his death and was life chairman of the Dallas County chapter of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, treasurer of the American Cancer Society's Texas division, and campaign chairman for the March of Dimes. He was a director of Temple Emanu-El in Dallas and vice president and president of the Jewish Federation for Social Service, chairman of the United Palestine Fund for Dallas and Texas (1924), and national chairman of the Combined Campaign for American Reform Judaism (1960–61). He was national director of the Camp Fire Girls and vice president and a director of the Boy Scouts of America. In 1956 President Dwight D. Eisenhower named him chairman of the banking committee of the People to People program, which promoted international understanding and friendship. Florence established the Florence Foundation in December 1956 to support charitable, religious, educational, scientific, and recreational projects "for the benefit of humanity."
He received the Linz Award (1944) for civic contributions to Dallas, the Dallas Distinguished Salesman Award (1954), and the Kudos College award of the Dallas Advertising League (1955). He was named Headliner of the Year for 1956 by the Dallas Press Club and presented the Distinguished Civic Service Award in 1960 by the Greater Dallas Planning Council. He received honorary doctorates from Westminster College at Fulton, Missouri (1955), Oklahoma City University (1956), and Texas Technological College (1960), and, in 1959, was given the Catholic Benemerenti Medal for his work as general chairman of the building campaign for St. Paul Hospital, of which he was later board chairman and trustee. Florence was a thirty-second-degree Mason, a Shriner, and a Democrat. On February 21, 1928, he married Helen Lefkowitz; they adopted two children. He died in a Dallas hospital of hepatitis on December 25, 1960.
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Sam Hanna Acheson, Herbert P. Gambrell, Mary Carter Toomey, and Alex M. Acheson, Jr., Texian Who's Who, Vol. 1 (Dallas: Texian, 1937). Current Biography, 1956. Dallas Morning News, December 26, 1960. Who Was Who in America, Vol. 4. H. Harold Wineburgh, The Texas Banker: The Life and Times of Fred Farrel Florence (Dallas, 1981).
Activism and Social Reform
Patrons, Collectors, and Philanthropists
Dallas/Fort Worth Region
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Joan J. Perez,
“Florence, Fred Farrel,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed August 09, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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