Longtime Texas banker Kenneth L. “Ken” Burgess passed away on May 24. He was 92. While his initial goal was to become a veterinarian, his career eventually shifted to community banking after working for 11 years as a farmer. As a banker, he incorporated his knowledge of, and passion for, agriculture into a successful career that lasted 32 years.
Burgess earned a bachelor’s degree in animal husbandry from Texas Tech University. While at the university, he joined the ROTC program, holding several leadership positions. After graduation, he received one of five commissions from his class to the U.S. Air Force. He piloted a B-47 Stratojet during the Korean conflict, carrying atomic weapons as a member of the Strategic Air Command. He reached the rank of first lieutenant during his five years of service. Throughout his lifetime, Burgess continued to own and fly civilian aircraft.
After serving in the U.S. Air Force, Burgess briefly pursued a career as a veterinarian, but soon switched to farming. During his 11-year stint as a farmer, he served on the loan committee for the Federal Housing Administration, gaining credit experience that would benefit his next career opportunity. While a farmer, was asked by a bank in Olton to help with some troubled agriculture loans and subsequently joined the bank in 1967 to help improve its agricultural underwriting capabilities.
Burgess graduated from the Southwestern Graduate School of Banking at Southern Methodist University in 1974 and was bestowed an award of distinction for his thesis, “Marketing for Small Agricultural Banks in the Seventies.”
During his banking career, Burgess led investor groups to purchase four banks and one savings and loan company. Three of the banks were located in the Texas Panhandle. With these three banks, he formed one of the nation’s first small-bank holding companies. He later organized a new group of investors to purchase Security State Bank in Abilene.
Burgess held leadership roles in the communities in which he lived, as well as state leadership roles in the banking industry. He served on the boards of the Texas Bankers Association (TBA) and the Independent Bankers Association of Texas (IBAT). He chaired numerous committees for each of these organizations. He served as chairman of IBAT in 1983. He was a founding board member of The Independent BankersBank (TIB). He also served as a member of the Community Bank Advisory Council for the Federal Reserve Bank in Dallas.
Burgess served as director, chairman and strong advocate of the West Texas Rehabilitation Center, chairman of the Rehab Center Foundation, director for the Abilene Regional Medical Center, chairman and director of the Abilene Country Club, chairman of the Development Corp. of Abilene, chairman of Raindance Corp. and board member of the West Texas Coalition for Innovation and Commercialization. In 2012, he was named “Abilene Citizen of the Year” by the Abilene Chamber of Commerce. He also served as a member of the Texas Tech Foundation board of directors and was a strong supporter of all things Texas Tech.
Burgess is survived by his wife, Sue Burgess; sons, Ken (Cathy) Burgess, Greg (Sherry) Burgess and Brad (Suzanne) Burgess; seven grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren; and brothers Jim (Elaine) Burgess and Mike (Marilyn) Burgess.
A service to celebrate Burgess’ life will be held at 1 p.m. on June 10 at the First United Methodist Church in Lubbock, followed by a time of fellowship with family and friends in the church parlor.
In lieu of flowers, Burgess’ family suggests memorials to the Excellence in Banking Endowment at the Rawl’s College of Business at Texas Tech University, c/o Whitnie Hill, 703 Flint Ave., Lubbock, TX 79409.