Source: The Paris News
Liberty National Bank, a privately-owned community bank that serves Paris and Lamar County from its main bank downtown on Lamar Avenue, as well as two branches: one on Bonham Street in West Paris, and one on Collegiate.
Drive in East Paris, had its origins in City National Bank, according to Philip Cecil, current chairman of the board. The bank was chartered and open for business in 1890. Cecil said from the beginning, “The bank has always been centered on the financial well-being of the people in this community.”
The original City National (see photo) was located in the middle of the block on the north side of the square. It was an imposing structure, made of pink granite with polished granite columns. It was totally destroyed in the Paris fire of 1916. Cecil said that at the time of the fire, there were five banks located around the square. The only one that was spared was First National, located in the First National Building, one of the few downtown structures to survive the conflagration. Representatives from the four banks hired a contractor to erect a building on the square, which all four banks used as a temporary location until new structures were built. It was an unusual arrangement, but not as unusual as the fact that all four shared one vault.
City National then built a five-story building on the southwest corner of the downtown square. Because of the difficult circumstances of the time, including the fire, rebuilding costs and the collapse of the cotton market in 1920, City National was forced close its doors in January 1925. The Liberty National Bank of Paris was organized to acquire the assets and assume the liabilities of City National Bank, saving depositors any loss. Additional capital was paid by shareholders and the bank opened with a new charter by March of that year.
Cecil said the bank’s president, E. H. McCuistion, brought in his grandfather J. M. Cecil, a banker from Valiant, OK, as cashier and responsible for the bank’s management. A Cecil has been at the helm ever since.
Economic conditions leading up to the Great Depression, especially those affecting agricultural values, devastated the Paris area and the banks were hit hard. On April 17, 1931, with its capital depleted, the Liberty National Bank of Paris was re-organized into the Liberty National Bank in Paris. Again additional capital was paid in and the bank re-opened on April 20, with a new charter and a new name. Many in the community were unaware that any changes had been made.
When McCuistion retired in 1941, J. M. Cecil was elected president and served until his death in 1953. His son, J. Gilbert Cecil, who had served as cashier and vice president, succeeded him. In 1975, Gilbert Cecil was succeeded by his son, Philip R. Cecil, who served as president until January 2002. Carl T. Cecil, the fourth generation of Cecils to serve as bankers, is currently president of Liberty National Bank.