A native Texan, Benton Fooshee Love, Jr. was born November 19, 1924 in Vernon and grew up on his family's farm near Paris. The hardships created by the Great Depression and its effect on his family left a lasting impression on Love and helped mould his desire to excel in business and in life. He attended Trinity University in Waxahachie on a debate scholarship for one semester before transferring to The University of Texas at Austin after his father's death. World War II interrupted his studies; on his eighteenth birthday he joined the United States Army Air Corps and flew twenty-five combat missions as a B-17 navigator with the Eighth Air Force, attaining the rank of captain and earning three Oak Leaf Clusters and a Distinguished Flying Cross.
After the war Love returned to Texas and completed a bachelor of business degree at UT in June 1947. In September 1947 he married a fellow student, Margaret McKean, with whom he had three children. After a stint as a wholesale paper salesman, in 1948 Love co-founded Gift-Raps, Inc. a wrapping paper manufacturing business in Houston. The company grew steadily and in 1962 Gift-Raps merged with Gibson Greeting Cards; Love remained with the company for three more years.
In 1956 he had joined the board of directors of River Oaks Bank and Trust Company, and in 1965 the board asked him to become president and CEO of the bank. After two years, during which time the bank's profits increased significantly, he was asked to join Texas Commerce Bank as senior vice president and manager of commercial banking in the Houston metropolitan division. In 1969 he was named president and in 1972 CEO, a position he retained until his retirement in 1989.
Love enjoyed a very successful career at TCB, serving in top management positions and guiding the bank through several key institutional changes, including mergers with smaller banks, the implementation of regional interstate banking and branch banking, and the merger with Chemical New York in 1987. Love brought a new management style to banking, with a focus on budgets, performance, goals, asset profitability, asset growth, and asset quality. He believed that banks should market themselves, and that bankers be familiar with their customers' needs. His leadership resulted in TCB's steady increase in earnings during the 1970s, and helped stave off financial disaster during the economic downturn of the 1980s when so many other Texas banks experienced losses or even failure. During his twenty-two year tenure TCB grew from one bank in Texas to multiple banks around the world, and assets increased from one billion to over twenty billion dollars.
Love's business and personal philosophies melded into what has been called the TCB spirit of civic activity and accountability. He was a vociferous advocate of Houston and was active in the city's civic and philanthropic affairs, including holding many board positions and chairmanships within the UT M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and UT Health Science Center-Houston systems. He also served as chairman of the Houston Grand Opera and the Greater Houston Partnership, among others. He received numerous awards for his civic commitments, including the Houston Holocaust Museum's Lyndon Baines Johnson Moral Courage Award in 1995 and recognition as Houston's Greatest Individual in 2004 by the Greater Houston Partnership.
Ben Love's management style and business acumen, his personal commitment to his colleagues, his community and country, and his family, have earned him a place among Tom Brokaw's "greatest generation," as noted by former United States Secretary of States James A. Baker, III, in his forward to Love's book. Ben Love died of cancer January 13, 2006.
Historical Note: Texas Commerce Bank and its predecessors had been in Houston for just over a century at the time of the historic merger between TCB and Chemical New York in 1987. TCB, formerly known as Texas National Bank of Commerce Houston, was a product of the 1964 merger of the National Bank of Commerce and the Texas National Bank. Since 1886, a number of banks had been purchased or had merged to form these two, the largest in Houston by the mid 1960s. Jesse H. Jones had been associated with NBC since 1912 as founding director, principal stockholder, president, and chairman. At his death in 1956, his holdings in the bank passed to his philanthropic foundation, Houston Endowment. Two years after the 1964 creation of TCB, the bank adopted the marketing name Texas Commerce Bank. In 1968 TCB expanded internationally, opening an office in London, and merged with a number of smaller banks throughout the 1970s. In 1987 branch banking was instituted and TCB merged with Chemical New York, creating the fourth largest banking group in the United States.