First National Bank first opened its doors in 1889 — only two years after the foundation of the city itself. Today, it is not only the oldest business in Ardmore but also the oldest surviving bank charter in the entire state. While other businesses have come and gone, the bank has survived community disasters, the Great Depression and world wars to become an Ardmore institution.
President and CEO Curtis Davidson described the bank’s history.
“We first opened as a private bank in 1889,” Davidson said. “I think at the time all banks in Oklahoma (Indian Territory) were private banks, and there was no such thing as FDIC insurance back then.”
By 1890, the private bank received a national charter and began operating under the name First National Bank of Ardmore. Their first building, located on the northeast corner of East Main Street and Caddo, was among the 82 buildings destroyed by fire on April 19, 1895.
After the fire, Davidson said the bank built a new location on the corner of Main Street and Washington where they operated until September 27, 1915 when a tank car exploded at the nearby depot. The explosion, which killed 42 people and injured hundreds, devastated much of downtown Ardmore.
In 1919, the bank built their third building which continues to stand to this day on the corner of West Main Street and A Street NW. Davidson said they eventually outgrew the location and moved into their current downtown location in 1975.
Davidson described why he believes the bank continues to succeed.
“While we’ve had different owners over the years, there’s basically only been four ownership groups,” Davidson said. “The Anderson family were our founders. Then a gentleman by the name of Walker bought it, and he sold it to the Judd family. In 1986 the Judd family then sold it to the group who basically make up the present ownership, and we’ve had consistent local ownership ever since.”
He said local ownership is another key to their longevity.
“We’re going to remain locally owned and provide service for the local people,” Davidson said. “That’s easy to say, but what’s most important is to actually live it — and that’s what we try to do.”
Davidson, who first joined the bank in 1992 and became President and CEO in 2000, said one of his favorite parts of the banking industry is assisting other bankers in growing in the profession.
“Watching the other banking professionals we have here and assisting them in serving the local community is so rewarding,” Davidson said. “Watching somebody else make new accomplishments and knowing that I was able to help them grow their careers is so satisfying.”
Davidson said he also enjoys seeing local business grow.
“I’ve always enjoyed being a part of something that becomes a local success, provides employment and drives our community’s economic engine,” Davidson said. “That’s why we like to be involved in what small local businesses are doing. We know that the success of those businesses will help the community and in the end help us as well.”