Ralph Gilbert (Gib) Blackman Jr. died peacefully at home on January 8 surrounded by his family after a courageous battle with cancer. A Texas community banker, he was most widely known as the publisher and editor—along with his wife, Bonnie—of Bankers Digest for more than 30 years.
Born October 11, 1947, to Ralph and Betty Blackman at the Naval Academy Hospital in Annapolis, Maryland, Blackman earned BA and MBA degrees from the University of Texas–Austin. He launched his banking career at First National Bank of Dallas and went on to serve at several other Texas banks. In 1988, he and his wife, Bonnie, purchased Bankers Digest.
Established in 1942, Bankers Digest was a weekly industry news magazine delivered to bankers’ mailboxes across the Southwest U.S. It reported on bank activities in Texas, Arizona, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico and Oklahoma. For decades, the Blackmans traveled to banking industry events throughout the region, networking with countless bankers, engaging them in thoughtful conversations about the state of the industry and keeping them apprised of happenings across the Southwest.
Robert Pinson published the first issue of Bankers Digest on June 15, 1942. In 1976, his son Robert Pinson Jr., who had taken over the business from his father, hired Bonnie Blackman to help him manage the rigorous and unrelenting deadlines. Twelve years later, Bonnie and her husband, Gib, purchased Bankers Digest from Pinson. They continued with the magazine for the next 30 years, reporting on a tremendous number of changes and challenges the banking industry faced, including the fallout from the mid-1980s economic crash, changes in branch banking laws, endless conversions to digital processes, consolidation, September 11 and more.
“Frankly, we miss the tales of country bankers making loans with mules as collateral,” the Blackmans wrote in one issue of Bankers Digest. The Blackmans shared a wonderful sense of humor.
Desiring a less rigid schedule with free time for travel, the Blackmans decided to retire in 2018, selling Bankers Digest to the Independent Bankers Association of Texas (IBAT), its current publisher. During the process of transitioning Bankers Digest from the Blackmans to IBAT—and from Dallas to Austin—this writer got to spend a week with Gib and Bonnie learning the ropes. Gib, who had a larger-than-life personality, kept an amazing amount of information in his head, details he could communicate instantly with precision. During the week of training, he recited countless tidbits of crucial information with his customary raised voice that could be intimidating until you realized Gib was just passionate about the business. He seemingly knew everybody in the industry and everything about Texas banking. He also knew his readers. When prompted, he could dictate off the top of his head a list of subscribers up for renewal at any given time. It was obvious that Bankers Digest and the Southwest banking industry was Gib Blackman’s passion.
“I had the pleasure of working directly with Gib and Bonnie Blackman upon their retirement and sale of Bankers Digest,” says Christopher Williston VI, IBAT CEO. “Every interaction our team had with the Blackmans reinforced the deep professionalism, care and service that characterized their leadership of the magazine for so many years. IBAT, and the entire banking industry in the Southwest, was positively impacted by Gib Blackman.”
Upon their retirement, the Blackmans penned a farewell to their Bankers Digest readers: “We believe you are some of the best people in the world. You care about your communities and prove it not only by investing in your customers, but also by doing service projects and educational programs that make a difference—some of them we’ve shown in Bankers Digest. You serve the banking industry honorably and you always paid the bills! Robert S. Pinson focused on people in the industry because he said, ‘People will always be interested in people.’ His philosophy has proved true for more than 75 years.”
Gib Blackman enjoyed life outside of the banking world, too. He coached all sports for both his children, taught their Sunday School classes and led Boy Scout Troop 473 in Dallas. He was a 40-year member of Highland Park United Methodist Church, participated in the Good News Class and was an avid student of the Bible. Blackman was a longtime member of the 9th Floor Investment Club, a baseball fan, an American history buff and a passionate camper and hiker.
Gib is survived by wife Bonnie, daughter Elizabeth Blackman and partner Brooke Lukensmeyer, son Forrest Jamison Blackman and wife Heather, and grandson Jamison, as well as his mother Betty, who will turn 100 in May. A memorial service will be held at Highland Park United Methodist Church at 10 a.m. on March 25. In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate memorial gifts to the American Cancer Society or the Gladney Center for Adoption in Fort Worth.