Jimmy Campbell of Cleburne is president/CEO of Community Bank, headquartered in Fort Worth with 10 branch locations.
Back in Cleburne High School in 1967, he served as president of the Math Club.
Even then, numbers was the name of the game.
He hated school at first, until his sixth-grade teacher, Laurian Gilliland sparked his competitive spirit.
“We had a math contest between all six of the elementary schools. Mrs. Gilliland’s husband was principal of J.N. Long Elementary School, and his students often won the contest. She was determined she and Cooke Elementary were going to win that year.
“Mrs. Gilliland worked with me for two days before the contest. Don Clements of Coleman and I tied for first. She was so happy.”
It was a new feeling for him. A good one.
Campbell and his wife, Cathy, knew met each other in the first grade.
“I lived on Bales Street, and Campbell lived on Euclid,” Cathy said. “But after third grade, I moved away to California and didn’t come back until my freshman year.”
Campbell, his brother, Mike, and sister, Rhonda, lived in the country with their parents, J.B. and Darlene Campbell, moving back to town before his ninth-grade year.
“Our dad was in the National Guard, did construction work and worked at LTV before he worked for the Santa Fe,” Campbell said. “Mother was assistant superintendent of the Santa Fe Shops with a 38-year career.”
He grinned and added, “She told 1,200 men what to do everyday. I grew up in a structured environment where you were never late — and you got things done.”
When Campbell enrolled in Cleburne High School, he was in awe of math teacher E. Rex Arnold.
“I was amazed at Mr. Arnold’s instruction — the way he gave me drive, the want-to. I placed at regional in number sense. I received a few of Mr. Arnold’s famous [reward] pennies. In fact, on my 40th birthday, he gave me a bag of 40 — still in our safe deposit box today.”
Arnold was sure that Campbell was destined to be an engineer. After graduating from CHS in 1967, Campbell attended UT Arlington on an LTV scholarship that included an internship.
“I went to classes at the University of Texas at Arlington a semester; then worked in engineering at LTV the next semester, etc. I stayed with that for two years and dropped out.
“I absolutely hated it. I didn’t like sitting at a drafting board, but mostly I just wasn’t good at it. I was absolutely miserable.”
He got an afternoon job at Cleburne Ford and continued morning and evening classes at UTA, determined to earn his bachelor’s degree.
In April 1970, he said he got a call from Arnold.
“What are you doing with your life, Campbell?” Arnold wanted to know.
Campbell: “I’m taking 18 semester hours and working 40 hours a week, commuting to Arlington. My grades are good.”
Arnold: “You have no career path. Be at my house tomorrow at 1 p.m. with a coat and tie on,” Arnold ordered.
Campbell: “But, Mr. Arnold, I have to go to work.”
Arnold: “Tell them you will be late.”
Campbell recalled, “I did as he said. I remember he was seated at a picnic table out by his car port when I pulled into his driveway.”
Arnold said, “Cleburne National Bank has a new president, Charles Baker. I want you to meet him.”
Campbell told him he wasn’t interested in a job there.
“But Mr. Arnold got in his car and I followed him to the bank,” Campbell said. “We went in the bank’s side door and I sat on a leather couch. Mr. Arnold introduced me to Mr. Baker and then left. We talked for a while. I learned that the president was planning to open a motor bank so that customers could bank until 6 p.m. instead of 2 p.m. He had called Mr. Arnold to recommend a college student for the job.”
About two months later Arnold called to see what happened after the interview.
Campbell said, “I told him that nothing happened. I never did hear back from him.
“Go back to his office unannounced tomorrow.”
“I have to work, Mr. Arnold.”
“Go in your work clothes. Just go,” were his instructions.
Campbell said, “I walked in wearing my work uniform. Mr. Baker told me he had been intending to call me. He wanted me to report for work on Aug. 31.”
He smiled and added, “That was 42 years ago.”
Cathy and Campbell married in 1972. As 1967 graduates of CHS, he was glad their paths had crossed again when she came to his window in the note department of Cleburne National the year before.
He jokingly said, “There she was. This pretty blonde who had a job in the courthouse and had just paid off her car.”
Martin “Nooner” Griffith, their friend since first grade, got them together to go water skiing. By Christmas, they had announced their engagement.
Cathy’s mother, Mary Morrow Jones, helped her plan their wedding that was held in the chapel of First United Methodist Church in Cleburne. Cathy’s father, John Morrow, had died in 1983. She has one sister, Sylvia Potter.
Campbell worked as a part-time teller and later became cashier at Cleburne National. In 1979, he started First State Bank of Cleburne as president/CEO. From 1987-89 he was president of First National Bank in Cleburne, followed by president of Everman National Bank. From 1990-96 he started the Small Business Administration Loan Division of the Bank of North Texas in Fort Worth, which became the fifth largest in the United States.
Since 1997 he has served as president/CEO of Community Bank, which has 10 branches in Burleson, Cleburne, Acton, Fort Worth, Granbury, Hurst and Rockwall.
On a hot summer day in 1995, Campbell was busily at work in the barn outside his country home. Cathy came rushing out to tell him that Arnold was on the phone and insisted on talking to him right then.
“I rushed in, thinking something bad had happened. Mr. Arnold told me he wanted me to come to his house.
“I told him I was all dirty and sweaty, but he insisted I come immediately.”
When Campbell arrived, Arnold told him to sit on the couch and that he would be right back.
“He brought me a file folder. It had my name on it. Inside were newspaper clippings since my high school days up to the present. My 4-H club, the prom, college, my wedding, my job promotions — my master’s degree — everything. He told me he wanted me to have it.”
Arnold died a few months later.
Almost twilight at the Campbell’s place, there were no sounds of traffic.
Five of their dogs were scampering over the back pasture. The only nonstray is almost 15 years old and stays inside.
Campbell said, “Some 51 dogs have come to us — many drifted on and we’ve found homes for others. There must be a sign on the courthouse square that says, ‘If you find a stray, take it to the Campbells.’”
Both Campbell and Cathy have been named Wall of Fame recipients by the Cleburne Chamber of Commerce. He is past president of the chamber and the Cleburne Industrial Development Foundation. He served on the board of the Texas Bankers Association and as president of the TBA’s Community Bankers Division. He taught banking for several summers at Texas Tech University.
Cathy worked for child welfare and has served on the Children’s Advocacy Center of Johnson County board for nine years. In 2006, she received the Team Excellence Award by the Children’s Advocacy Center of Texas at Austin, presented to one volunteer board member statewide. Through her work through the Cleburne Chamber of Commerce she helped found the first Business Expo and served as its chairman for 11 years.
“I am a fund-raiser,” she said. “I am passionate about these things. Because of the Children’s Advocacy Center, abused children are able to tell their story of rape/assault or the homicides they have witnessed to a CAC representative only once.
“Imagine 30 abused children in our county — new ones every month. Before CAC they had to tell their terrible experience over and over for different departments. Now they are videotaped in a private room and government and legal representatives can ask their questions through the head phones of the interviewer. The child is so protected — we are truly their advocates.”
The Campbells are members of St. Mark Methodist Church in Cleburne. Both sons, Paxton and Brett, reside in Cleburne.
Hearing your life story in your own words makes one reflective, I think. You sense where the values are, where the accomplishments and weaknesses are, and whom you need to acknowledge.
Regarding Arnold’s mentorship, Campbell said, “You know, I really don’t think teachers know what a lifelong influence they have. How important they really are.”
Now Campbell has become a mentor to others. He’s learned that there’s more to the game than numbers — that encouraging words and actions count even more.
Larue Barnes may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.