W. HOLDER FUQUA, president of the First National Bank at Amarillo, as a successful business man has not a peer in the Panhandle country. Forty five years of age, and worth at a conservative estimate three-quarters of a million—such is a brief manner of expressing his career. But there is much to be said and understood between the lines of this statement. He began life as a poor boy, but blessed with an indomitable energy that was better than all capital of material sort. He paid his own way through school, he worked at manual labor in the cotton fields, he taught school, he saved his money, he made investments with rare sagacity and embarked in enterprises which his energetic control brought to most fortunate culmination; he became interested in business houses, in financial affairs, continually rolling the ball larger with every turn—but also became a man of broad sympathies, eminently philanthropic and altruistic, forgetting not his own early struggles and free with assistance to the aspiring youth and to destitute old age; in short, has accomplished unusual success in material affairs and has devoted his efforts and his fortune without reserve to the high cause of social service.
Mr. Fuqua was born on a plantation near Tupelo, Mississippi, in 1863. His parents were Rev. William M. and Elizabeth (Milam) Fuqua. On the Fuqua side the family goes back to French Huguenot ancestry, who, driven from France by the religious persecution of the seventeenth century, found a retreat in the wilds of America. The Milam family in this country originated in South Carolina, and of this same stock came the famous Ben Milam, whose trepid part in early Texas history is detailed in the earlier portion of this work.
Mr. Fuqua’s father was born at Lynchburg, Virginia, in 1812, being the son of a prominent tobacco planter at that place. When a young man, during the thirties, he made three successive trips, on the same horse, to Pontotoc county, Mississippi, where he bought a large lot of the Choctaw Indian lands that were being offered for sale after the removal of the Choctaws to Indian Territory. He soon located permanently in Pontotoc county, where he became a wealthy cotton planter, with a large estate and numerous slaves, and was one of the most influential citizens of the county. The Civil war ruined his business prospects, and in 1877 he moved his family to Ellis county, Texas, and established a comfortable home near Ennis, where he died in 1893. During his later years he had devoted himself to the Baptist ministry, and for some years was a well known pulpit orator. His wife survived him for several years, passing away at the home place in Ellis county in May, 1899. She was a native of South Carolina.
Mr. Fuqua was reared in the plantation near Tupelo, and was about fourteen years old when he came with the others of the family to Texas in 1877. His literary education was finished at East Texas University at Tyler, and his business education in the commercial department of the same university, at Waco. He gained these advantages of education by working and paying his way, and that he had to train his sails very closely all the way through school is shown by the fact that on his graduation he had to borrow ten dollars to get home. This sum he repaid during the following summer by hoeing cotton. In the following year he began teaching in Ellis county, where he taught fully a thousand pupils, and was principal of a school five years. From his earliest boyhood he was unusually energetic, as is evident from his vigorous taking hold of life’s problems, and throughout his career as a school teacher he was employing his spare time in doing work on the outside. He at first did work for others in the field, and then embarked in cotton planting on his own account. As a planter he was very successful and reaped some rich rewards from his crops as also from his judicious investment of earnings, and by 1889, when twenty-six years old, he had a capital of fifteen thousand dollars.
Since then his career has been of varied and prosperous activity, and only a brief outline of his interests can be given. He identified himself with Amarillo in1889, which in that year contained only two or three buildings on the line of railroad which had just been completed. He established the first stage line from Amarillo south through the great plains country to Estacado, and in this enterprise he literally coined money. He also became one of the chief interested parties in the First National Bank of Amarillo, established in 1889. He owned two livery stables in the town and owned the entire local coal business, which he controlled for some years. Throughout the period of his residence here he has owned cattle ranches and has large and valuable land holdings in different parts of the Panhandle, besides rich farming lands south of Fort Worth in Tarrant and Johnson counties. Besides his own bank at Amarillo he owns large blocks of stock in other banks in thriving towns of the Panhandle. Since its founding Amarillo has been a distributing center for a large section of the country and consequently a fine field for jobbing houses in various lines of merchandise, and Mr. Fuqua has extensive financial holdings in some of these concerns. It has been his steadfast policy when investing money in such enterprises never to enter into partnership, identifying himself only with incorporated companies.
Mr. Fuqua was elected to the presidency of the First National Bank of Amarillo soon after it was established, but did not take active charge until 1896, when he gave up direct participation in his other business affairs in order to devote all his time to the bank. At the present time he is practically owner of this well known bank, his four co-directors having only nominal financial interests so that he national regulations may be complied with. Mr. Fuqua’s reputation in banking circles and his ability as a financier is known all over northwest Texas, and he is recognized as one of the most skilful men in the business. His bank, which is the oldest in Amarillo, has been a remarkable growth and has recently increased its capital and surplus to a quarter of a million dollars. With a short period of continued increase in his prosperity Mr. Fuqua will be numbered among the millionaires of the country and his stability of character and genius for business administration make him a safeguard of northwest Texas progress and a source of continued power and benefit to al material and financial affairs in this part of the state.
But, only secondarily in importance to the careful directing of these business interests, his efforts go out into the fields of philanthropy and civic helpfulness. When he was in the coal business in Amarillo he instituted the policy of supplying every deserving poor family in town with coal free of cost and he keeps this up to the present time, the present leading coal dealer having standing orders to distribute coal to worthy persons at Mr. Fuqua’s expense. Furthermore Mr. Fuqua has especial fellow feeling for young people endeavoring to gain an education, and he has assisted by personal encouragement and more substantial help a number toward the goal of their aspirations. Mr. Fuqua is a deacon in the Baptist church and a liberal supporter of the denomination and its work. He is a Knight Templar Mason, and popular in all social circles.
He was married at Ennis in 1885 to Miss Ella Chestnutt, and they have one son, Earl Fuqua.
Source: B. B. Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), Vol. I, pp. 550-552.