Circumstances dictated that Walter Posey mature early and learn the ways of the world quickly.
The boy who was to become a banker, civic pillar and consensus builder was born in 1881 near Cross Plains.
In 1891, he and his parents, three brothers and two sisters traveled by wagon to Floyd County camping on the edge of the Caprock, where his father bought several choice sections and expanded his herds of cattle and Merino sheep.
However, the panic of 1893, accompanied by a severe drought, greatly affected the family economically, according to an account by the Texas State Historical Association. As a result, Walter, only 13, began gathering bleached buffalo bones left by hunters interested only in the hides. He hauled them by the wagon load to Amarillo in exchange for supplies and groceries.
After his father, James B. Posey, opened a general store in Floydada in 1895, Walter continued freighting supplies from Amarillo for several years. He made what was probably the only sheep drive over the Panhandle cattle trails, when he drove his father's flock to market in Liberal, Kan., in 1895.
By the time he was 16, Walter had his own freight wagons and teams.
Posey attended schools in Floydada when he could and studied at home when necessary. His only college education was a semester at the Metropolitan Business College in Dallas.
As time went on, the Poseys began accepting the money neighboring cowboys brought in for "credit on the books." Initially they stored this money in Amarillo, but in 1899 James Posey opened a private banking house that later became the Floydada First National Bank.
In 1901, the elder Posey, in partnership with Louis T. Lester of Canyon, opened a branch bank in Lockney with Walter as cashier. When the partners bought the First National Bank of Lubbock in 1904, Walter was transferred there.
On the morning of Nov. 4, 1904, the 24-year-old Posey made his way from the Nicolett Hotel to the northwest corner of Lubbock's town square, where he unlocked the door of a small frame building. He had begun an association with First National Bank that would run for almost seven decades.
In a 1948 interview with The Avalanche-Journal, Posey reminisced about the early bank and the changes he had since seen in Lubbock:
"The bank was a one-story structure with the vault built on the back. The vault was built into caliche rocks. It looked very sturdy and imposing but I believe that a man with a crowbar could have smashed into it in 30 minutes. But it served its purpose very well. ...
"We handled most of the banking business then for the entire South Plains. It was mostly ranch business, of course, and when we could not handle their needs for an over-large loan, we worked through Fort Worth interests that financed ranches in this area.
"This was a frontier country then, and a dollar went a long way. A man could borrow $200 and buy more land that $20,000 would buy today (1948), and he could borrow $150 and purchase a nice herd of cattle to put on it. There was nothing but ranches west of Lubbock and little else to the south and east."
That was to change, Posey pointed out. Only two men were farming when he came to Lubbock, but their discovery that cotton would thrive in the area and the tapping of a huge underground water supply would soon alter the economy of the South Plains.
Posey spent almost 70 years with First National Bank of Lubbock, rising from teller to president and chairman of the board. His standing, from Lubbock's early days through the growth of the 1960s, found him at the lead of almost any project that would benefit the city.
His leadership and emphasis on community spirit helped guide Lubbock through depressions, two world wars and the devastating tornado of 1970.
Posey became First National's vice president in 1925, its president in 1945 and its chairman of the board in 1953. In addition to his banking interests, Posey was among the group that pooled money for the establishment of Lubbock's first cotton gin in 1905.
For several years he dabbled in the feeder cattle business. He also maintained interest in early area oil developments and made a lifelong hobby of keeping up with news of the latest discoveries and explorations in order to buy mineral rights.
As a civic booster, Posey helped influence the building of the Santa Fe Railroad through Lubbock, served for 12 years as finance commissioner on the Lubbock City Council and was a school board trustee. He helped organize the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce, of which he was president in 1922 and 1923, and was among those who influenced the location of Texas Tech in Lubbock. He is credited with prompting the city and county to buy the land on which Mackenzie Park was later established. Posey, a charter member of the Lubbock Rotary Club, served as the club's president in 1925.
The banker took no credit for major ventures he shepherded, such as the introduction of rail service to the city and the location of Texas Tech in Lubbock. "The rail line and the college each were secured because the people of the area cooperated and worked for what they needed and for what they wanted. I feel that most of our advancement can be credited to this spirit of mutual help," he said in a 1954 interview.
"I marvel at what's ahead for this great country. We've just begun our industrial development. I've had oil men to tell me that we've just scratched the surface in the field of petroleum," he said. "The chances are that the next 50 years will see even greater growth than what we've seen in the past."
In 1964, nearing the end of his career, Posey was honored at a surprise event celebrating his 60 years as a businessman and Lubbock leader. George Kuykendall, a businessman and former banker, lauded Posey for his leadership role.
"Towns like Lubbock don't just happen," Kuykendall told those present. "Men like Walter Posey give of themselves to build them. The optimism of this man is one of his greatest traits. He is not a millionaire but is one of the richest men in Lubbock in friendship and confidence of his neighbor."
Posey died of a stroke in 1973. The community of Posey and an elementary school in Lubbock were named for him.
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