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  • Writer's pictureHistoric Columbus

Columbus Bank & Trust (Part 3)

SOURCE: A Trust to Keep: The One Hundred Year History of Columbus Bank and Trust Company, Sara Crawford and Janis Eberhardt, editors. 1988.


For the United States, World War II was over. The economy still bubbled from the influx of military personnel and their families who needed post-war financial and social services. President Franklin D. Roosevelt died two months after the Yalta Conference, and in his place stood Harry Truman. The world had entered the Atomic Age and the Truman Doctrine pledged US help to countries that desired freedom against totalitarianism. By the late 1940s in Columbus, live theater waned while the movie houses boomed. Television existed but there was not one in every home. The Georgia-Auburn football game was held in Memorial Stadium and Spano's Restaurant on 10th Street catered to Valley customers. At the bank, the executive committee announced total resources of $33,988,000.00 on August 4, 1947, which showed a growth of over $10,000,000 in deposits and over $2,000,000 in loans from 1946. After the death of W. C. Bradley in 1947, his son-in-law, D. Abbott Turner, assumed the responsibility of guiding Bradley's interests. Since Mr. Bradley had been in declining health for approximately two years, Mr. Turner had gradually involved himself in business decisions as he assumed the tremendous responsibility of tending to the Bradley interests, one which included assets in Columbus Bank and Trust Company.

Mr. Turner, like his predecessors, grew up in a small town or rural environment. He moved to Columbus as a young man from Thomasville, Georgia, where his father operated a sawmill. In this way, Mr. Turner explained his reasons for moving. "I saw an opportunity in Columbus. Business was expanding, manufacturing and textiles were becoming the major industries and I knew I'd rather be here than in the sawmill!" He began life in Columbus working for Columbus Power Company and living very modestly at the YMCA. Over the course of social mingling, he met and married Elizabeth Bradley, daughter of W. C. Bradley. Mr. Turner admired his father-in-law tremendously and learned his business practices by observing and participating in his many interests. Mr. Bradley reciprocated his son-in-law's regard, for he appointed D. Abbott Turner to the Board of Third National as early as 1921. Mr. Turner would guide the policies of the bank for thirty-five years. Along with his disarmingly keen sense of humor which endeared him to people, Abbott Turner had a natural gift for instilling trust. During his tenure, he also would demonstrate the ability to pick the right man for the job with at least three critical executive choices that would result in moving the bank into the spotlight for innovative technological know-how. This expansion would demand adjustment and reorganization in certain areas and increased hands-on management. It would require a mentality equipped to understand the complexities of a banking enterprise of growing magnitude. Abbott Turner had the mind and the temperament to master the challenge ahead. No man could have been better suited than he was to prepare CB&T to face the 21st century.

At the bank, Mr. Turner assumed the chairmanship of the board and joined his friend J. J. Pease (pictured above), newly elected president in 1947, in the operation of Columbus Bank and Trust. Mr. Pease, a World War I pilot, had worked at the bank from his boyhood and knew the facts of its operation as he began his tenure. Young William Bradley Turner also became a director of the bank in 1947, as had his friend G. Gunby Jordan II in 1940. The two grandsons of the foundation builders of the bank joined forces as their grandfathers had done. In 1948, Columbus Bank and Trust operated five branch banks – Fort Benning, Tenth Street, Fourteenth Street, North Highland, and Wynnton. The branches maintained independent profiles purposefully calculated in their formation by Mr. Bradley. They kept separate records and reported them to the parent bank apart from each other. Philosophically, Mr. Bradley believed that each bank earned its own reputation by giving proper service and by demonstrating integrity and soundness in its fiscal policy. Such independence produced responsibility and seemed practical business.

In 1955, the Building Committee, feeling that newer and more modern facilities were needed, requested that the Board approve the construction of completely new quarters on the site it occupied. Approval of the request meant the demolition of the old bank in order to replace it with a five-story office and bank building. By 1957, other changes faced the bank which was shifting and readjusting to meet a growing Columbus. The resources at the bank increased during the ten years of J. J. Pease's presidency, but his health was declining. Mr. Pease then became Vice-Chairman of the Board where he could still participate in the affairs of the bank but not carry the weight of overseeing the daily operations and confrontations necessary in the presidential job. Thus, the search began for a new leader.

While the presidential hunt continued, the building project, begun in 1955, was completed. In 1957, the bank moved into its new 1.5-million-dollar home at the same address at 12th and Broadway and was ready for business. In a personal salute to the city's history and the men who helped shape its growth, Abbott Turner gifted what is called, the Great Table, twenty-four feet long, eight feet wide, and semi-elliptical in shape. The table highlights twenty-four handmade pieces designed by J. R. White of Marietta and hand-carved by Herbert K. Millard.

While the new banking facility was receiving its final touches, directors and officers continued to look for a man to fill Mr. Pease's position. After a careful search, Mr. Abbott Turner found his man in Valdosta, Georgia. James W. Blanchard possessed an impressive record. He had served in the Navy during World War I and had worked for Citizens and Southern Bank in Augusta, Georgia. He became affiliated with Columbus Bank and Trust on September 1, 1957, and by resolution of the Board on September 2, 1957, assumed the presidency.

In 1959, James Blanchard foresaw the inevitably dominant role of the credit card business, and he and the directors offered a CB&T charge account even before Bank Americard and Master Charge became national players. The system relied on manual posting machines and soon enjoyed moderate success. In a forty-mile radius around Columbus, some 3,000 merchants accepted the CB&T charge card. Thus, CB&T made a commitment to the credit card business that was unusual for a bank to make in 1959.

By 1965, Mr. Blanchard recognized the need for computer operation and was the visionary who brought CB&T into the Computer Age to service a growing credit card business as well as all other facets of banking. When a joint venture with the W. C. Bradley Company proved unfeasible; Mr. Blanchard decided the bank should have its own computer. Trained computer operators existed but were scarce and expensive. CB&T had two choices, hire operators from other companies or train the bank's own employees. The second choice seemed the more practical. Training computer operators required analyzing the talents of the employees, and aptitude tests were given to target those best qualified. One young Georgia Tech graduate, H. Lynn Page, was instrumental in organizing the computer department in 1966 and from there rose steadily to higher positions in the bank. Success was the byword of the 1960s as James Blanchard led the bank and was supported in his efforts by Mr. D. A. Turner and the directors. Mr. Turner, always a humble man, often said that what success he’d enjoyed in life was because he'd been fortunate enough to pick the right people with whom to surround himself. He assuredly felt that James Blanchard was a prime example of his good luck and was 100 percent behind Blanchard's decisions. One of Mr. Blanchard's last decisions occurred concerning a replacement for Marvin Terry at his retirement. Mr. Terry had given the idea considerable thought and recommended James Yancey who was exactly the kind of young man Blanchard had in mind, for his low-key, easy manner with customers made him an invaluable asset.

James W. Blanchard (center) celebrating the 70th anniversary of Columbus Bank & Trust

James Blanchard's death on January 12, 1969, set off a frantic search for a successor who might possess his rare qualities of business acumen, religious convictions, educational interests, and dedication to community service. Mr. Blanchard had known that a good banking executive keeps his finger on the heart of the city he serves, for in the long run what's right for the community is good for the bank; so, the searchers needed a pragmatic man as well as a banker. The aggressive advancements and key appointments made by Jim Blanchard in the little over eleven years he served as president of Columbus Bank and Trust can be told in banker's terms. The results of his innovations moved the resources of Columbus Bank and Trust from $32,958,000 in September 1957 to $93,564,000 in January of 1969.

The search continued and many of the board sought the services of James Blanchard's son, Jimmy. Jimmy Blanchard showed no eagerness to leave the legal profession, where he was just gaining experience, to assume a banking position in which he was neither professionally knowledgeable nor comfortable. While not completely abandoning the idea of gathering young Blanchard into the CB&T family, CB&T Directors chose a distinguished, proven banker as their temporary President, C. W. (Bill) Curry (pictured above). Bill Curry was well known in Columbus and throughout Georgia, having performed notably in the banking field. He had held office as President of LaGrange Banking Company, high office in the First National Bank of Atlanta and the Fourth National Bank of Columbus. From there he went back to Atlanta as Executive Vice-President of the Atlanta-based Trust Company of Georgia. There he retired in 1966 and returned to Columbus as assistant president of the W. C. Bradley Co., responsible for the Columbus Iron Works. Mr. Curry was hired with the blessings of CB&T and Trust Company of Georgia with the idea that he would preserve the status quo as the bank searched for a successor. He was advised to maintain the bank's proven direction until, hopefully, young Blanchard could be convinced that bright prospects lay in the banking field. Mr. Curry took over as president on January 21, 1969. In June of 1970, Jimmy Blanchard became assistant president and a member of the board. Under Bill Curry's guidance, he could see the inner workings of the bank, could learn what a CB&T president must know, and what actions he should take. Then, on January 22, 1971, the board approved, and James H. (Jimmy) Blanchard became president.

In May of 1971, the one-million-dollar Operations Building became home for Data Processing, Bank Americard, and related departments. Another giant step forward was the formation of a new Marketing Division to emphasize plans that involved all employees in selling the bank's services. With people and their convenience always of paramount importance, CB&T began operating neighborhood Constant Bankers (later replaced by the more sophisticated ATMs). The Constant Banker allowed customers to bank day or night, seven days a week. For the early 1970's the innovation seemed a miracle of modern technology, underscoring CB&T's progressive image in the community. Constant Banker became one of the first "go ahead" operations that showed CB&T to be on the leading edge of activity in the banking industry because it was the first automatic teller machine in Columbus. On December 6, 1972, CB&T Bancshares, Incorporated, became a one-bank holding company, allowing Columbus Bank and Trust to assume the role of quarterback to multiple companies. The holding company provided broader services to the customer and was an important move for the future of CB&T.

Left to Right: James H. Blanchard, James D. Yancey, William B. Turner, and H. Lynn Page

In 1974, CB&T began offering third-party credit card transaction processing to banks in Georgia and other states through its bankcard processing software, The Total System. By 1983, it was spun off as Total System Services, Inc. Also in 1983, James H. Blanchard relinquished his position as President of Columbus Bank and Trust Company at which time the Board elected H. Lynn Page as Vice Chairman of CB&T and James D. Yancey as its President. Blanchard remained as President of CB&T Bancshares, Inc. While remaining Vice Chairman of CB&T, Lynn Page continued to promote the growth and provide guidance for Total System Services, Inc. By 1986, William B. Turner became Chairman of the Executive Committee of CB&T Bancshares, Inc. while remaining as Chairman of Columbus Bank and Trust, and James H. Blanchard assumed the position of Chairman of the Board of CB&T Bancshares, Inc. Lynn Page rose to the Presidency of CB&T Bancshares, Inc. and Vice Chairman of the Board of Columbus Bank and Trust, James Yancey, President of Columbus Bank & Trust, became Vice Chairman of the Board of CB&T Bancshares, Inc. CB&T Bancshares, Inc. formulated a strategy for success in the '80s and held steadfastly to the plan - ensuring G. Gunby Jordan's and W.C. Bradley's commitment to keeping trust. Becoming one of the largest financial institutions in the southeast, Columbus Bank and Trust (Synovus) is steeped in Columbus history. This series has been taken from the book A Trust to Keep that celebrated the 100-year history of the bank and ends its story in 1988. Obviously, there has been more to that story since then. Below is a timeline of major milestones in the company's history until 2019 that was taken from the company's website.

COMPANY TIMELINE 1888 G. Gunby Jordan initiated the establishment of two banks: Third National Bank and The Columbus Savings Bank. 1930 Third National Bank and The Columbus Savings merged to form Columbus Bank and Trust. 1959 Columbus Bank and Trust became one of the first U.S. banks to offer charge cards. 1972 CB&T Bancshares, Inc. was created as a one-bank holding company for Columbus Bank and Trust. 1974 CB&T began offering third-party credit card transaction processing to banks in Georgia and other states through its bankcard processing software, The Total System. 1976 CB&T Bancshares became Georgia's first company to act on the state’s newly enacted multi-bank holding company law with the acquisition of Commercial Bank of Thomasville, Georgia, and Commercial Bank and Trust of Troup County, Georgia. 1983 The bank's third-party transaction processing business was spun off as Total System Services, Inc. (TSYS), which became a publicly traded firm majority owned by CB&T. 1988 CB&T's banking operations cross state lines for the first time through the acquisitions of banks in Florida and Alabama. 1989 CB&T Bancshares, Inc. changed its name to Synovus Financial Corp. and listed its common stock on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol SNV. 1992 Synovus expanded in Alabama with the acquisition of First Commercial Bancshares, Inc. and its subsidiaries in Birmingham, Montgomery, Tuscaloosa, Huntsville, and Jasper. 1994 Synovus Mortgage Corp. was established. 1995 Synovus entered South Carolina with the acquisition of Columbia-headquartered National Bank of South Carolina. 1999 Synovus ranked number 1 on FORTUNE’s 100 Best Companies to Work for in America. 2002 Synovus entered Tennessee with the acquisition of The Bank of Nashville. 2004 Synovus launched its first de novo bank and single-branded bank, Synovus Bank of Jacksonville, Florida. 2005 Synovus increased its presence in Florida by merging banks in St. Petersburg, Sarasota and Palm Harbor under one charter, Synovus Bank of Tampa Bay. 2007 TSYS was spun off into a separate company, effective December 31, 2007. 2010 Synovus consolidated 30 bank charters into one. 2016 Synovus acquired Entaire Global Companies, a private life insurance premium finance lender to commercial borrowers through its principal subsidiary, Global One. 2018 Synovus completed transition of 26 separately branded banks to the Synovus name. Also announced the acquisition of Florida Community Bank (FCB). 2019 Synovus completed acquisition of FCB (Jan. 1) and successfully integrated its systems and customers.

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