Fuqua, Wiley Holder (1862–1950)

By: H. Allen Anderson

Type: Biography

Published: January 1, 1995

Wiley Holder Fuqua, banker and businessman, the son of William M. and Elizabeth (Milam) Fuqua, was born on September 13, 1862, in Pontotoc County, Mississippi. His father, a Baptist minister, was also a prosperous cotton planter who had owned 100 slaves before the Civil War and afterward rebuilt his productivity to 800 to 1,000 bales of cotton a year. All of that was eventually lost through security debts, and in 1877 the family moved to a farm about five miles south of Ennis, Ellis County, Texas. Financial reverses had kept Wiley from completing his education at Cedar Hill Institute in Mississippi. He saved part of his farm earnings with an eye to further education; eventually he attended East Texas University in Tyler and the old Waco University, specializing in commercial studies and doing various odd jobs to pay for his room and board. After graduation in 1882 Fuqua returned home and resumed working in the cotton fields. He began conducting classes for the neighborhood youth and eventually established his own country school. He taught in Ennis for eight years and traded horses and cattle on the side. On Christmas Eve 1885 he married Mary Ella Chestnutt, a former student. By 1888 he had netted a fortune of $20,000.

During school vacation in the summer of 1889 the Fuquas planned a round trip by train to Clayton, New Mexico. At Amarillo, however, they got off and stayed. Soon after his arrival, Fuqua purchased a livery stable and operated horse-drawn streetcars. Subsequently he opened a stage line from Amarillo to Plainview and Crosbyton, where it connected with a line to Colorado City. He also established a retail coal business and subsequently came to own all of the town's coalyards. He was a member of the delegation that helped get the Pecos Valley and Northwestern line routed to Amarillo in the 1890s.

When the First National Bank of Amarillo opened in January 1890, Fuqua was among its stockholders. In 1891 he was made a director of the bank and by 1894 was its president. In 1896 he bought all the stock and became its sole owner. In the morning before opening time, Fuqua was usually seen sweeping the bank's front porch. In time he acquired stock in forty-three other Panhandle banks, including controlling stock in seven. At one time he owned up to 560 sections of farm and ranch land in the Texas Panhandle, New Mexico, and Missouri, as well as various real estate properties in Amarillo and other townsites.

During World War I and the Panhandle oil boom of the 1920s, Fuqua helped others establish businesses through his generous loans. He soon won a reputation as an authority on the economic conditions of the Southwest. When the Great Depression hit, he remained loyal to his friends and often took cash in his car to the banks in which he had an interest, in order to keep them solvent. In 1932 he formed the West Texas Mortgage Loan Company with assets of $3 million, using his money and property as holdings and security. He retired from the presidency of the First National Bank in 1934. In 1940 the Reconstruction Finance Corporation filed suit, compelling Fuqua to sell most of his properties in settlement. Nevertheless, he managed to rebuild a portion of his wealth by the late 1940s.

Fuqua was president of the Texas Bankers' Association in 1910–11 and president of the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce in 1912. He was a Baptist, a Mason, and the father of four children, all of whom he outlived. He died on May 30, 1950, and was buried in Llano Cemetery, Amarillo.

Amarillo Daily News, July 8, 1940. Amarillo Sunday News-Globe, Golden Anniversary Edition, August 14, 1938. Lewis E. Daniell, Texas-The Country and Its Men (Austin?, 1924?). Della Tyler Key, In the Cattle Country: History of Potter County, 1887–1966 (Amarillo: Tyler-Berkley, 1961; 2d ed., Wichita Falls: Nortex, 1972). Buckley B. Paddock, ed., A Twentieth Century History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis, 1906).
Time Periods:
  • Progressive Era

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

H. Allen Anderson, “Fuqua, Wiley Holder,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 03, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/fuqua-wiley-holder.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

January 1, 1995