Richard Ware II, chairman of Amarillo National Bank, celebrated his 50th year at the family-owned bank in July. Representing the fourth generation of Ware family leadership, Ware helped transform Amarillo Bank into the largest 100-percent family-owned bank in the nation and a dominant business in the Texas Panhandle and beyond.
Richard Ware became president of the bank in 1982 and chairman in 2014. Ware’s sons, William Ware and Pat Ware, lead Amarillo National Bank alongside him today as president and vice chairman, respectively. Ware regularly notes that, because the bank is privately held by a single family, it doesn’t have to field questions from anxious investors or worry about earnings. Instead, it can invest in its employees, customers and local organizations.
Under Ware’s leadership, Amarillo National Bank has made generous contributions to local charities, focusing on improving the quality of life in Amarillo and fostering a thriving business climate. The bank has also worked to beautify downtown Amarillo, adding hundreds of trees to its large campus during Ware’s years at the helm. “We feel we’ve made a difference for Amarillo and our community,” he says.
Starting at age 16, Richard spent his summer months filling a variety of teller positions. After graduating from Southern Methodist University and earning his MBA degree from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, he began working full-time at Amarillo National Bank in July 1970. He remembers receiving his first desk in 1971 when he was promoted to a commercial loan officer. Three days later, Ware made his first unreferred loan. “For the most part, they let me learn by making mistakes,” he says of his father, B.T. “Tol” Ware II, and grandfather, Richard C. “Dick” Ware.
As children, Richard and his late brother, Bill, ran their own banking institution out of their family’s basement. They called it Ware National Bank and created their own deposit slips and checks for friends and family. Ware even made lunch-money loans to classmates at Wolflin Elementary School in Amarillo before the principal shut him down for charging interest.
Established in 1892, Amarillo National Bank was purchased by Richard Ware’s great-great-grandfather, Benjamin Taliaferro (B.T.) Ware, in 1909. Ware was honored by American Banker as a “Thriving Family Operator” in 2017.