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2010 Hall of Fame Inductee
Lowell "Stretch" Smith

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Lowell “Stretch” Smith was born in Cleburne, Johnson County, Texas. He attended school in Rio Vista and Cleburne and received a BBA degree at SMU. He served in the military as an officer. Smith Ranch was founded in 1887 by Stretch’s great-grandfather. Stretch is the fourth Smith to operate the ranch and live in the home. Living on the land instilled a deep desire in Stretch to preserve and honor his western and pioneer heritage. There is one field that is actually in native (untouched) grasses on the ranch. In addition to operating as a cattle operation, Smith Ranch originally produced cotton, corn, and milo. Although the cattle were Horned Herefords for many years, Smith Ranch now raises Black Angus cattle. Over the past century, Smith Ranch has supplied food, fiber, and fuel to America. Many historical events and legends are connected to the area around Smith’s property. Stories of Indians, the Chisholm Trail, and explorer Philip Nolan, etc. are documented in many articles. Smith remembers many of these stories which were told by his family through the years.

In addition to ranching, Smith’s professional focus was banking. He started his career working at the First State Bank in Rio Vista during the summers. After a brief time as an assistant bank examiner, he returned full-time to the bank, and became president while in his late 20’s. In 1961 the bank expanded to a location—literally in a cow pasture. Stretch decided that the “Cow Pasture” theme was a fit. Lex Graham, a well-known cowboy cartoonist, designed the bank’s check with a cowboy roping a steer—and from then on it was a western theme for the bank. The Smiths cleared off some mesquites behind the bank to make an airstrip for “fly-in” customers. The bank received a good bit of notoriety, both locally and nationally, for its airstrip and its unique western theme. However, the real story of the Cow Pasture Bank is that it cared about its employees, its customers, and the community. Smith is most proud of the bank’s inclusiveness in dealing with customers of all backgrounds.

The bank was the center of many exhibits and displays of western/cowboy culture. George Hallmark, a well-known artist was commissioned to paint about twenty paintings depicting the history of the area. These paintings are now on exhibit in public areas in the county for the public to enjoy. Each painting is a true story about something that happened in the area. The “Cow Pasture” bank continued to grow with branches in Cleburne, Godley, and Burleson. When it was sold to Wells Fargo in 1999, it was the largest bank in the area.
Through the years, Stretch has tried to document and further preserve his knowledge of the rich heritage of the area. Many people still visit with him on a regular basis to savor the stories and information.

Smith maintains an office in Cleburne and is still very active in the community. He continues to be involved in groups such as Cleburne Economic Development Foundation, Rotary Club, and various philanthropic projects. Smith has served on many boards through the years, including president of the Texas Bankers Association, Board of American Bankers Association, Board of Trustees of Southwestern Graduate School of Banking at SMU, Cleburne School Board, Johnson County Memorial Hospital, Advisory Board of Regents of Hill Community College and Board of Trustees of Texas Wesleyan University.

In recent years, “Lowell Smith, Jr. Middle School” was named in his honor, and the Smith family was honored with the naming of Lowell Smith, Sr. History Center in Cleburne. He was a first time recipient of the “Lifetime Achievement Award” given by the Cleburne Chamber of Commerce. Texas Wesleyan presented him with an Honorary Doctor of Business Degree in 2008. The “Lowell Smith, Jr. Leadership Scholarship” is given yearly by Hill College.

Smith married Shirley Segars from Oklahoma City, whom he met at SMU. They have shared a lifetime of commitment to family, church and civic involvement. They have been married over 50 years and have two daughters and two grandchildren. Their daughter, Sue Ann, raises quarter horses on a place near Weatherford, and Pamela lives in Dallas.

 

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