By LEW K. COHN, Inquirer Editor
Jackie Lynn “Jack” Mills, who served as the first chairman and chief executive of what would become Sage National Bank, died on Saturday August 13 at the age of 83.
Sage Capital Vice Chairman Bobbie Polasek fondly remembered Mills, who came to work for Mills as the bank’s senior teller in 1984 when what was American National Bank first opened for business. .
“He was an absolute gentleman,” Polasek said. “He was one of the best people I could have worked for and I really admired him as chairman. He was a family man and he was dedicated to making this a place of family banking. Working with him was a delight.”
Mills, a Coleman native, first came to Gonzales in 1969 when he was offered a position as vice president of Gonzales Bank after 10 years of rising through the ranks of Coleman County State Bank. Mills became Gonzales Bank’s loan officer, security officer, trustee and served as secretary to the bank’s board of directors.
In 1978 he left to become chairman of Buchel Bank and Trust in Cuero, but would return to Gonzales five years later when he was approached by the board of directors of America’s new national bank with an offer he would not could not refuse. — help them complete their application process and become the bank’s first CEO.
Mills took charge of the sale and issue of all necessary inventory for the bank and oversaw the purchase of all necessary machinery and equipment and the hiring of bank staff.
“When he started we had nothing,” Polasek said. “We had no customers. Today we have built up to seven branches, but it all started with Jack Mills.
A groundbreaking was held on February 2, 1984 for a new 13,000 square foot building at the corner of Texas 97 and Sarah DeWitt Drive (US 90-A) adjacent to the Country Villages Plaza Mall, with Mayor Carroll Wiley and Gonzales. Wayne Ellison, director of the Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture, as well as the board of directors of the American National Bank – John Paul Jones, Zane Briscoe, Norman Burns, Lavo Briscoe, Bill Christian, Joan Floyd and Doyle Colwell.
The building was designed not only to house the bank, but also to house the law offices of Burns and his partner, Houston Munson. Construction was completed five months later, and Gonzales’ Third Bank officially opened on July 12, 1984.
Mills served as president and chief executive of the bank until December 1991, when he resigned to become an independent insurance agent, specializing in life and health insurance. Jack Mills Insurance Agency operated for nearly 27 years until his retirement in September 2018. For 15 years he had a business association with fellow agent and close friend Mike Davis.
“Jack was a hard worker and what he told you was the honest truth to God, every time he said anything to you,” Davis said. “He was probably the most honest, loyal and independent person I know. He was well respected in the community and well liked. He was a family man and a religious man, and obviously, you know, he was a real friend to me, he was a good man and I will really miss him.
Davis said his business association with Mills began after the latter grew tired of spending long days on the road signing up school districts and other large employers for insurance plans.
“It’s unclear how many miles he put on his car to do this,” Davis said. “He went from El Paso to Brownsville to Dallas and wherever that took him he went. And he just got exhausted so he came up to me and said, ‘Can I help you with your bands? I have to leave the road. I said, ‘You better believe it. I can certainly use you!’ Whenever we did our groups together, we split everything 50-50.
“I couldn’t have done it without him, to tell you the truth. I mean, he helped me tremendously. He was one of those people who didn’t leave until the job was done. And he would help anyone, you know? He was just a good all-rounder. He was loyal, honest and reliable and no one else would have helped me in this matter. Even after his retirement, our clients have always asked us about him.
Banking and insurance were not the only areas in which Mills contributed to the quality of life in Gonzales, however. He served as a volunteer firefighter and was one of the original members of the Gonzales Volunteer Ambulance Corps, which was established under Dr. Robert Williamson in March 1974. This organization would later become known as the Gonzales County Area EMS and will lead to the creation of Gonzales County Emergency Services District #1.
Mills has also served as an election judge, chairman of the United Fund, and volunteered for the Easter Seals and March of Dimes. He served as an officer and director of the Gonzales Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture and also served as president and player agent for Little League. He was also a member of Lions International for 35 years and past president of the local Lions Club.
He also served as treasurer of the First Baptist Church and chaired the Men’s Fellowship while teaching Sunday School.