TONY McWHIRTER, CLASS OF 1884
1853 - June 5,1915
Bank & Trust Company, the oldest state bank in Indianapolis, was founded
in 1891 by Felix Tony McWhirter, Psi Phi Class of 1884, a professor,
businessman, and politician. McWhirter, born in Lynchburg, Tennessee, in
1853, was the son of a physician and grandson of a planter and
was a peripatetic man of wide-ranging interests and ambitions. While
attending East Tennessee Wesleyan University in Athens, Tennessee,
McWhirter edited the small town’s newspaper and, upon graduation,
served as its mayor. While
in Tennessee, he met Luella Frances Smith, daughter of a pioneer Indiana
they were married in Greencastle, Indiana, in 1878. Shortly thereafter
the couple moved to Indianapolis, where McWhirter operated a pharmacy at
the Bates House.
1884 McWhirter taught rhetoric and English at DePauw University,
eventually earning his Ph.D. there. In 1888 McWhirter resigned from
DePauw and purchased a newspaper in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He sold the
newspaper in 1891 and returned to Indianapolis.
became active in the Prohibition party, which nominated him for mayor of
Indianapolis in 1894
and governor of Indiana in 1904. Luella McWhirter attained citywide
prominence in the woman’s club and suffrage movements and as president
of the Indiana chapter of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union.
established a real estate business in Indianapolis in 1891 and provided banking
services for his clients who were awaiting real estate transactions. In
and four others, including his wife and Charles and Sallie Lemon,
obtained a state
charter for the Peoples Deposit Bank. (Both Luella McWhirter and Sallie
Lemon served on
the bank’s board of directors, a first in Indiana.) The bank was
located in the Union
Trust Building at 122 East Market Street. McWhirter bicycled to work
downtown and, when spotting someone new to the city, would extend a
welcome, at the same time soliciting accounts for the bank. By 1902 the
bank had deposits of more than $91,000.
1905 the bank moved down the block to the Law Building, which it
purchased in 1920. In 1906 the name of the bank was changed to Peoples
McWhirter family has maintained a controlling interest in the bank
throughout its history. (Charles Lemon sold his holdings in the bank to
McWhirter in 1908.) After Felix T. McWhirter’s death in 1915, his
twenty-nine-year-old son, Felix Marcus, in Psi Phi’s Class of 1908,
succeeded him as president. Felix Marcus was president of the bank for
forty four years and served another twelve as chairman of the board.
McWhirter followed a conservative banking philosophy, maintaining the
company’s focus on basic banking services,
accumulating capital from savings, preferring steady growth over great
gains in size,
and refraining from acquiring smaller banks. McWhirter’s policies
provided Peoples State Bank with a stability that helped it survive the
Great Depression intact.
1933 was the first year since incorporation that the bank did not pay
dividends on its
stock. From March 1929 to December 1933, money on deposit shrank from
slightly more than $3 million to about $1.4 million; loans fell from
$2.3 million to $970,000.
the depression, Peoples State Bank renegotiated the loans of distressed
customers rather than foreclose. Peoples State Bank was one of the first
banks to open after the bank holiday declared by President Franklin D.
Roosevelt in March 1933. By 1938 total deposits were $2.3 million.
Felix Marcus McWhirter, the bank opened a trust department and in 1931 began
operating a drive-up window. In the 1950s the bank developed the
Hopalong Cassidy Savings Club in which children, with the deposit of
$2.00, received various paraphernalia, including a bank, tenderfoot
badge, secret code, and welcoming letter from Hopalong. The bank was
renamed Peoples Bank & Trust Company in 1954.
Felix Marcus’s retirement in 1959, his son, Felix Tony McWhirter
(named for his grandfather and a member of Psi Phi’s class of 1938),
Tony’s son William E. McWhirter (a DePauw graduate, and the first in
four generations not to pledge Deke) became president in 1984.
During the 1980s, after the state loosened the laws governing the
merger and acquisition of banks, Peoples Bank & Trust Company was
the only small Indianapolis bank to reject buyout offers from Ohio and
Michigan banks. Peoples Bank & Trust Company, the only locally based
commercial bank, marketed its services to professionals and small and
medium-sized businesses. By the 1990s the bank had assets exceeding $350
million, 13 Indianapolis locations, and about 250 employees; it
accounted for about 4 percent of the city’s banking market.
institution continued to attract customers through sound business
advertisements that highlighted its Indiana roots. In 1997 William E.
McWhirter accepted the post of chairman of the board, succeeding his
father. Gerald R. Francis was then named the company’s president and
chief executive officer. By the end of the year the company boasted
assets in excess of $488 million. In July 1999 Peoples Bank agreed to a
$227 million acquisition offer by Fifth Third Bank, based in Cincinnati.
Peoples Bank, Fifth Third became the third largest bank operating in
$7.4 billion in assets and 148 locations in the Hoosier State.