Bank of Athens

100th Year Anniversary
by Jeff Harvey

ATHENS-On April 7, 1905, the Bank of Athens opened its doors for the first time at the site of the current Athens Town Hall. In the 100 years since then, it has been in two other locations and seen three name changes as it has been part of three larger transactions, but still remains part of Athens.

On Tuesday, Karen Hyatt, Branch Manager/Loan Officer BB&T/Athens, said, We'll be having a `Client Appreciation Day' / 100th Anniversary Celebration on Friday, July 22 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. We'll be having giveaways (as part of) of our appreciation to our customers and thank them for their support.

The Bank of Athens was chartered in January, 1905, Hyatt said. When it opened in April of that year with H. M Shumate as its first president and M. A. Lowe as chief executive officer, its' primary goal was to provide banking services to the farmers, merchants and residents of Athens and surrounding areas. Lowe's monthly salary was $50. The bank's first loan was for $2,100 with three percent interest and the first Certificate of Deposit was issued with interest payable at two percent. It closed its first day of business showing resources of $16,207.41. Its first advertisement was published in the paper by Concord Normal School for a cost of $2.50 on Dec. 23, 1907.

The second bank building, built along the lines of the Virginia Bank of Commerce building in Princeton (the building on the corner of Mercer and North Ninth Street), was built on the lot across Unity Road from the Town Hall, which was purchased from John and Salllie L. Bailey for $1,800. The Shumate Store on the site was demolished to make way for it. The present bank site was purchased from the late Clark and Aileen B. Butler, the son-in-law and daughter of the Baileys and the Athens Baptist Church. The building was opened and dedicated on Jan. 25, 1975.

The bank's longest-serving president was dentist Donzie Lilly, Sr., who was elected on Aug. 29, 1920 and served until May, 1962, when he was succeeded by long-time employee Fred V. Cooper who joined the bank on Aug. 20, 1919 as cashier for $85 a month. Cooper served until his death on June 26, 1975

The first board of directors of the bank was Shumate, R. G. Meador, A. T. Maupin, J. K. Lilly, L. A. Martin, D. H. Thornton and J. F. Holroyd. Attorney Hartley Sanders drew up the charter of the bank. The bank's board in 1984, the last year prior to the merger with Mercer County Bank was R. B. Cheatwood, Sr., Homer K. Ball, Richard V. Lilly, Carl Alvis, M. D. Kirk, Jr., Ira M. Smith, Fred A. Bolton, Joseph F. Marsh, Jr., A. Glendon Hill and G. B. Scyphers. It be came part of Mercer County Bank in 1984, One Valley Bank in 1986 and BB&T on Nov. 16, 2000.

As part of our celebration, we will have exhibits related to our history, including gold checks and pictures of directors. Our staff will dress in early 20th Century clothing and punch and cake for everyone. We're a growing bank still, our assets are growing, she said.

As for the common theme throughout all of the changes, Hyatt said, Our dedication to our clients and customers remains the same.

Some information for this article came from the 1984 edition of the Mercer County Historical Society's History of Mercer County.

(Originally published in the Princeton Times. Used with permission of the author.)

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