James Christopher Paul, Panhandle banker, son of James M. and Susan (Kiger) Paul, was born on September 19, 1852, in Fairfield, Rockbridge County, Virginia. He attended Illinois State Normal University at Bloomington and became a teacher at Waynesboro, Iowa, and at Nunda, Illinois, where on September 1, 1886, he married a student, Nina Darby. They moved to Wichita, Kansas, which was then experiencing a boom, and Paul engaged in the real estate and insurance businesses. The boom in Wichita collapsed, however, and in January 1888 Paul moved to the frontier town of Panhandle City, Texas. Panhandle City (now Panhandle) was the new terminus of the Southern Kansas (Santa Fe) Railway, which was intended to build onward through New Mexico. At the same time the Fort Worth and Denver City Railway was proposing to intersect the Southern Kansas at Panhandle City. The prospect of these rail connections, in Paul's words, "gave to Carson County a greater prominence than any other Panhandle county then enjoyed." Paul arrived in the small town as treasurer of the Southern Kansas. He held this position for the next twenty years, moving with the rail headquarters to Amarillo in 1900.
With the backing of Kansas friends and capitalization of $5,000, he opened the Panhandle Bank on May 6, 1888, in a two-story frame structure in Panhandle City. The bank and offices for lawyer Temple L. Houston occupied the ground floor, and the second floor served as the Paul home. Paul and his wife had two sons. At the time of Nina's death on December 27, 1892, the Paul family was living in the Square House, which became the central building of the Carson County Square House Museum complex. On April 28, 1904, Paul married Cora Bryant in Paris, Texas. In 1888, when Carson County was organized, he was elected the first county treasurer, a post he held for four terms. He was instrumental in selling $8,000 in bonds for the construction of a jail and courthouse. He studied law under Temple Houston and passed the bar but never practiced. In 1898 he was elected judge of Carson County and thereafter was known as Judge Paul.
In addition to founding the first bank of Panhandle City, Paul helped establish a number of other financial institutions and was active in promoting the banking industry. He was one of the organizers of the Amarillo National Bank in 1892 and was its president from 1892 to 1896. In 1893 he became sole owner of the Panhandle Bank. In 1896 he was a cofounder of the Panhandle Bankers Association and was named its first president. In 1906 Paul helped to organize the Amarillo Bank and Trust Company and then served as its first president. He and his son Howard organized the Paul Bank in Slaton in 1911. In 1917 they had it chartered as the First State Bank of Slaton and then sold it to other investors. Father and son purchased an interest in the Guaranty State Bank in Amarillo in 1919. They soon acquired a controlling interest in this bank, which the Paul family maintained until the 1970s. Meanwhile the bank itself evolved into the American State Bank and then the American National Bank. Paul was also one of the organizers of the First National Bank of Panhandle, which opened in 1926 in response to an oil boom in Carson and Hutchinson counties. The Panhandle Bank closed in 1942 and merged with the First National.
When the Francklyn Land and Cattle Company, for whom Paul had worked as a grazing-land leasing agent, began to sell its lands in the late 1890s and early 1900s, Paul was offered first choice as a token of appreciation for his services. On May 2, 1902, he selected four sections near the town of Panhandle. He also purchased land in Bailey and Lamb counties from the XIT Ranch, which he sold to his sons in 1911. Throughout his life he remained involved in ranching and farming in the Panhandle. When West Air Express (later Trans World Airlines) began transcontinental service to Amarillo, Paul and Fletcher Lusby, another pioneer of the Texas Panhandle, were the only passengers on the first flight from Los Angeles to Amarillo on May 29, 1929. Paul died in Panhandle on March 3, 1935, and was buried in Llano Cemetery, Amarillo.