A celebration to mark the 100th anniversary of Hull State Bank, now known as Texas First Bank, was held Saturday, March 9, in the bank’s lobby in Hull. More than 100 friends and patrons of the bank were in attendance, including the family of the late president and board chairman, Henry Gilfillian.
The bank was chartered on March 4, 1919, and has remained a successful venture while many others have failed in the small community. Gilfillian’s grandson, Hunter, compiled the history of the bank, which he shared at the anniversary event.
“The bank ebbed and flowed, surviving during our country’s most trying times like the Great Depression and World War II,” Hunter said. “In 1939, the bank was robbed by the East Texas desperado Red Goleman. Red gained the title of Texas Public Enemy No. 1.”
According to history, Red and his accomplice drew their pistols on Hazel Hilliard and Florence Hudnall, the two local employees working at the time of the robbery.
“He then locked them in the vault taking nearly $12,000 in cash, equivalent to $215,000 today,” Hunter said. “However the bank survived as it always had.”
The subsequent years saw many other troubling times like an oil embargo and the Cold War. Some of the personnel who worked at the bank during these years were Vice-president Roy Hankamer, Cashier A.J. Hartel Jr. and directors M.E. Povito and L.P. Palmer.
In 1986, a local rice farmer and country boy, Henry Gilfillian, became a director of the bank.
“This rough and tough, horse-riding cowboy had lived in this community his entire life, doing business with the bank for years,” Hunter said. “He cared for the people here like he cared for his family.”
Gilfillian served alongside President Dan Wingate, directors Henry “Henke” Gilfillian Jr., J.C. Zbranek, R.C. Gatlin, Hale Johnston Jr. and George Richardson, and vice-presidents Brenda Grimes and Linda Taylor. They opened the first and only branch of the bank in Liberty in 1993. Soon after, Gilfillian became chairman of the board and president.
In 2001, the bank was robbed again.
“As the assailant came into the bank and threatened tellers for cash, my grandpa walked out with his own shotgun in hand, wrestled with the robber and fired a round into the ceiling in the lobby that left a hole for many years as a reminder,” Hunter said. “Needless to say, the robber left with no cash thanks to my grandpa.”
Ten years later, after the passing of Gilfillian, his son, Henry “Henke” Gilfillian Jr., became the last president and chairman of the board for Hull State Bank. He served for four years until the merger with Texas First Bank.
On March 6, 2019, the bank was robbed yet again. Police have since arrested a suspect, Aaron Gonzalez, and charged him with federal bank robbery.
“Texas First continues today to build and maintain community relationships just as my dad, grandfather and many others who are standing in this room did,” Hunter said. “So after 100 years, a couple of name changes, a merger, four known robberies, the Great Depression and the 2008 economic crisis, this bank continues to survive and thrive in the local community.”
Editor’s note: The history of Hull State Bank was graciously provided by Hunter Gilfillian.