Lowell “Stretch” Smith Jr., longtime banker and avid civic supporter in Johnson County, passed away on August 29. He was 88. For decades, he helped lead the First State Bank of Rio Vista.
Smith grew up on a family ranch near Rio Vista. Many people knew him as “Stretch,” a nickname acquired from his high school baseball days as a first baseman. He graduated from Southern Methodist University in 1954 and married Shirley Segars Smith later that same year. Shirley passed away in 2018.
Following his service in the U.S. Air Force as a captain, Smith launched his banking career at the Texas Department of Banking, working as an assistant bank examiner. In the late 1950s, he returned to Johnson County to join the First State Bank of Rio Vista. He was named president of the bank in the early 1960s and its chairman in 1975. Under his leadership, the bank became well known as “The Cow Pasture Bank,” later adding “The Fly-In Bank” to its moniker. Smith retired from banking in 1999 when Wells Fargo/Norwest Bank purchased First State Bank of Rio Vista. He continued to run his family office until days before his death.
Smith was very active in the banking industry, serving as president of the Texas Bankers Association, on the board of the American Bankers Association and as chairman of the board of trustees of the Southwestern Graduate School of Banking at Southern Methodist University. He also served on the advisory council of financial institutions for the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
In addition, Smith served in numerous civic capacities in the Cleburne, Rio Vista and Johnson County area, including as chairman of the board of Johnson County Memorial Hospital, advisory board of regents member for Hill College and on the boards of the Cleburne Economic Development Foundation, Cleburne ISD and Texas Health Cleburne Development Council. He was also a member of the board of trustees of Texas Wesleyan University, from which he was granted an Honorary Doctorate of Business Administration degree. Smith was a longtime member and past president of the Rotary Club of Cleburne.
Recognition for Smith’s achievements in the banking industry, as well as his civic service, includes:
- Receiving the first “Lifetime Achievement Award” for 50 years of community involvement from the Cleburne Chamber of Commerce;
- The naming of Lowell Smith Jr. Middle School in his honor in 2008;
- Inclusion in the Cleburne ISD Ex-Student Association’s Wall of Fame in 1999;
- Receiving the “Service Above Self” award from the Rotary Club in 1999;
- Being named “Cleburne Times-Review Man of the Year” in 2005;
- Induction into the “Cowboy Hall of Fame” in 2010 by the Western Multiculture Heritage Foundation;
- Being honored with “Lowell Smith Day” in 2011 by the Johnson County Commissioners Court;
- Induction into the Texas Bankers Hall of Fame in 2016;
- Being named “School Adopter of the Year” in 2017;
- Being honored with Hill College’s “Pillar of the Community Award” in 2020;
- Receiving the “Lifetime of Scouting Values Award” from the Boy Scouts of America in 2021; and
- Receiving his 65-year member pin from Rio Vista’s Nolands River Masonic Lodge.
Smith is survived by his daughters, Sue Ann Smith and Pamela Smith (Hoke Smith), as well as numerous grandchildren, great-grandchildren and additional family members and friends.