Gary Claxton , President and COO, Panola National Bank in Carthage Growing up in the town of Bonham - located roughly 70 miles north of Dallas and with a population at the time of 7,000 - Gary Claxton knew he wanted to be a banker. His inspiration came from his father, even though neither he, nor any of his other family members, were bankers. Claxton's father, a manufacturing equipment mechanic for 28 years at General Cable Corp. in Bonham , got paid every Friday. Before he would go to the bank and handle his personal banking, he would bathe and put on clean, presentable clothes. His father opined people should always present themselves properly to bankers because you need them to be your friends. The bank and its activities impressed Claxton, so he'd frequently tag along with his father on Fridays. "He'd always tell me that if I wanted to go to the bank with him, I had to clean up and put on clean clothes, too," Claxton says. "So every Friday afternoon I would take my bath, put on the clean clothes, too and go with him to the bank." From these experiences as a small child, Claxton knew he wanted to grow up to be a banker. From Bonham to banking After attending all 12 years of public school in Bonham , Claxton enrolled at Texas A&M University-Commerce (formerly East Texas State University ) where he received bachelor's and master's degrees in business administration. Claxton is also a graduate of the ABA's Stonier Graduate School of Banking . His banking career started in 1979 when he went to work with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency as an associate national bank examiner in Longview . This is where Claxton worked with Greg Denzer , the head of the OCC field office in Longview , who was one of the major influences on his banking career. "Greg was tough and demanding, but I really learned a lot under his guidance," Claxton says. In early 1983, Claxton took a job as a commercial loan officer with the First National Bank of Marshall . George Grobowsky , chairman of the bank, was also a big influence on Claxton's banking career. Grobowsky required the loan officers to verbally present their loan requests to the officers loan committee. "You never wanted Mr. Grobowsky to look over his reading glasses with a frown on his face. That look was one where you knew you made a mistake or omitted something from your presentation," Claxton recalls. He says the positive thing that came out of the fear of that look was that it taught him to be prepared and know his customer. In 1985, Claxton was employed as the executive vice president at the First National Bank of Carthage . That was his last job before joining Panola National Bank . Claxton joined Panola National Bank in Carthage in 1988; he's worked there ever since, having celebrated his 25th anniversary with the bank this past August. In 2005, Claxton was promoted to president and chief operating officer, the same position he holds today. This year, Claxton is serving as chairman of TBA's Government Relations Council . "There are too many bankers, in my opinion, taking a back seat and letting other bankers write the letters or make the phone calls to our representatives," Claxton says. "TBA helps protect our interests, and more bankers need to get involved to bring positive change to our industry." Claxton is also a member of the TBA Executive Committee and the TBA Board of Directors. Banking in Carthage Panola National Bank , located in Carthage , celebrated its 30th anniversary Oct. 6 . Claxton conducted a field examination on a bank charter application for a new national bank in Carthage about 31 years ago while with the OCC. "Little did I know that about six years later I would return to Carthage to become a part of this bank where I have served as an officer and director over the past 25 years," Claxton says. Claxton calls his move to Carthage the best move he ever made. "It is a perfect place to raise a family. We have great public schools in our county and we have Panola College , another great source of community pride." Carthage has a statewide reputation for its high school athletic programs. The Carthage High School baseball program has won numerous state championships, and the football team has won three state championships in recent years. Carthage and Panola County are deeply rooted in country music. It is the home of the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame and of country music greats Jim Reeves and Tex Ritter . Family life Claxton and his wife, Susan, celebrated their 39th wedding anniversary in June with a trip to Maui . They have two daughters: Heather of Wylie and Molly of College Station . "With our daughters being 16 years apart it has been like raising two only children. Even though they are 16 years apart, they are very close." Heather is a Baylor graduate, married to Adam Leggett who is a State Farm agent in Wylie . They are the parents of the four grandchildren. Molly is a senior elementary education major at Texas A&M University and is graduating cum laude in this month. She currently student teaches a second grade class and is engaged to be married in January. "Susan and I are extremely proud of our daughters. They have been a true blessing in our lives." O Who are your heroes? My parents. They taught me the importance of faith, family, friends and a good work ethic. What has been your best vacation or trip? Our favorite place is Italy where we have visited twice. Our first trip to Italy was just my wife and me, but on our last trip our great friends Donny and Patty Palmer joined us. Donny serves as the TBA member relations officer. Our friendship with the Palmers goes back for years when Donny and I worked together with the OCC in Longview . We consider the Palmers family. What is your favorite book? Any book by John Grisham . What is your favorite movie? Dancer, Texas Pop. 81 (It's a sleeper. If you are from a small town in Texas you will thoroughly enjoy it!) Who is your favorite president? Ronald Reagan What is your favorite sports team? Texas Rangers What is your favorite quote? "Reputation is the public perception of your character. Character is what you are made up of when no one is watching. Always strive to maintain an impeccable character, and a good reputation will follow." "[Claxton's] father opined people should always present themselves properly to bankers because you need them to be your friends.
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