Gayle M. Earls, former president and CEO of TIB–The Independent BankersBank, passed away on April 12 at age 81 after a courageous battle with cancer. His playful smile, booming West Texas voice and passion for both life and community banking is being recalled by many.
Born in Tonkawa, Oklahoma, and raised in Denver City, Texas, Earls was influenced by his surroundings. “It should come as no surprise that Gayle had a measure of grit about him,” is how his TIB colleagues remembered him in an announcement issued upon his passing. “In fact, we often referred to him affectionately as the Marlboro Man.” It was just such toughness that made Earls a key player in helping the Texas banking industry survive a crippling economic downturn in the 1980s.
After serving in the U.S. Army at Fort Knox, Earls became a human resource director at Tenneco, and then launched his banking career in 1969 at InterFirst Bank in Houston. During his 17 years at InterFirst, he was named chairman of the board and CEO of two different member banks, one in Odessa and one in Houston. While in those roles, he not only demonstrated his skill at resolving problems with troubled banks, but also at managing financial institutions for the long term.
In 1986, he was hired as president and CEO of TIB–The Independent BankersBank in Dallas and held that position until retiring in 2005. But “retirement,” in his case, is defined loosely. After leaving TIB, he thrust himself into new endeavors, including investment banking and using his experience to help the FDIC resolve two failing bankers’ banks during the economic downturn that started in 2008. Following those engagements, he was named chairman of the board of AccessBank in Denton, a position he held until shortly before his passing.
Among the many honors bestowed upon Earls for his service to the banking industry, he received the Texas Tech University College of Business Distinguished Alumnus Award, Independent Bankers Association of Texas Chairman’s Award, Texas Bankers Association Chairman’s Award and the Southwestern Graduate School of Banking Distinguished Alumnus Award.
“Gayle Earls shepherded TIB through one of the most difficult economic times in Texas history,” says Chris Williston, president and CEO of the Independent Bankers Association of Texas. “His West Texas grit and vast knowledge of the industry and its players contributed to his great success. On a personal note, I will miss his guidance and friendship.”
“When I met Gayle, we developed a very quick rapport,” says Jerry Walker, president and CEO of the Independent Community Bankers Association of New Mexico. “He was a sweetheart of a guy with a great sense of humor, and he did a great deal for the industry.”
Walker recalls that Earls was keen on nurturing the future of the banking industry. “Gayle was a strong supporter of the Independent Community Bankers Association of New Mexico and our education programs during and after his service with TIB,” he says. In 2006, the association established the Gayle Earls Academic Achievement Award at the Western States School of Banking in Durango, Colorado, which continues to provide scholarship money in Earls’ honor to the highest-performing student from an ICBA/NM member bank every year.
Earls is survived by his second wife, Dolores (his high school sweetheart), his children, Kelly and Brenda, and their families.
Published in Bankers Digest, April 23, 2018