Jerry Craft, chairman of the board at Jacksboro National Bank, celebrates a career milestone this year: 50 years as a Texas community banker. His service has not gone unnoticed. “As old as I am, I better have done something in my life,” Craft told North Texas Farm & Ranch magazine in 2014. He certainly has accomplished a lot—not only within the banking industry, but across multiple professions, political interests, public service endeavors, writing projects and athletic pursuits.
Craft grew up on this family’s ranch in Jacksboro. A lifelong sports fan and athlete, he was captain of his high school’s baseball and football teams. His athletic prowess continued in college at Texas Tech University, where he played intramural athletics and competed in livestock judging competitions while earning a BS degree in animal husbandry in 1960.
Craft’s talent for baseball provided a compelling chapter—an entire book, actually—in his young life. During the summers of 1959 and 1960, he was the first white man to play in the West Texas Colored League—prior to such leagues disbanding in the 1960s as Black players joined Major League Baseball along with other leagues on which skin color was not a factor. A “Jackie Robinson in reverse,” Craft pitched for the Wichita Falls/Graham Stars, a small, semi-professional, all-Black league. His teammates called him “Our White Boy,” turning the tables on the derisive term “boy” that was often used to describe Black men in less enlightened times. Calling Craft “Our White Boy,” however, was a term of endearment, not derision, among his Stars teammates.
At the urging of celebrated bestselling author Larry McMurtry (Lonesome Dove, The Last Picture Show), Craft wrote a memoir published in 2010—Our White Boy—about his experiences on the all-Black baseball team. In it, he addressed the struggles associated with race relations in the South during the 1950s—a rare but insightful perspective that otherwise had been undocumented in Texas’ history. A paperback edition of Our White Boy was published in December 2022 by the Texas Tech University Press. Craft also wrote a middle-reader adaptation of his book for children ages 9 to 12 entitled Pitching for the Stars in 2013.
After his years playing ball and graduating from Texas Tech University, Craft continued running the family ranch and began a long record of public service, starting with six consecutive two-year terms on the Texas State Democratic Executive Committee under Governors John Connally, Preston Smith and Dolph Brisco. He was also a 1968 delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Governors Ann Richards, George W. Bush and Rick Perry appointed and reappointed Craft to the Texas Regional Review Board. He is also a past president of the Nor-Tex Council of Government.
Craft was recognized for his pioneering work in the cable television industry by his colleagues when he was inducted as a “Cable TV Pioneer” in 1988. He has also served his local community in numerous capacities, including as a scoutmaster, Little League coach, president of the Lions Club, 10-year president of the Jacksboro Independent School District and mayor of Jacksboro (1991–2007). He is currently chair of the endowment committee at the First United Methodist Church of Jacksboro and chairman of the board of directors for Jacksboro National Bank. Craft has been inducted into the Jacksboro High School Hall of Fame and in 2007 received the Jacksboro Lifetime Achievement Award.
“I have had the pleasure to work with Jerry Craft for 47 of his 50 years of service,” notes Ed Rumage, CEO of Jacksboro National Bank. “He has been the foundation for the bank and our community as well. Our organization would not be where it is today without his vision, dedication and commitment to Jacksboro National Bank.”
Craft and his wife, Pamela, live in Jacksboro. Together, they have five children and six grandchildren.