On January 3, the Texas Bankers Hall of Fame announced its 2024 inductees who will be honored at the 11th Annual Texas Bankers Hall of Fame Gala, April 25 on the campus of Sam Houston State University in Huntsville. Five iconic bankers—James E. Baine, the late Harlan R. Heitkamp, Carmen Jordan, Vidal H. Ramirez and Henry Wu—will be honored. Established by the Smith-Hutson Endowed Chair of Banking at Sam Houston State University, the Texas Bankers Hall of Fame recognizes and honors the accomplishments of outstanding bankers who have made valuable contributions to the banking profession and pioneered the Texas banking industry.
James E. Baine is a recognized and respected community banker known for his tenacious, enterprising, creative problem-solving and generous spirit. Born in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1960, his family returned state-side in 1961, landing in Huntsville. He began his banking career as an employee at United Bank of Austin and eventually became the co-owner of three community banks in central to southeast Texas. His goal as a community banker has always been to serve the customer first, the bank second and himself last. Bank directors often describe him as “a man of street smarts and book smarts.”
Baine received his undergraduate degree from Sam Houston State University in 1982 and his MBA degree from Texas State University in 1984. He began his banking career at United Bank of Austin while pursuing his MBA degree in San Marcos. He served at the bank in a number of positions—advancing from teller to branch manager and vice president in 1983. He then joined First National Bank in Huntsville in 1984 as senior vice president.
Baine left banking in 1988 to establish multiple businesses focused on commercial and residential real estate acquisitions. At one point, he owned and managed more than 1 million square feet of commercial real estate, more than 30 percent of the apartment complexes in Huntsville and dozens of homes in Harris, Montgomery and Brazos counties.
Baine returned to banking in 1996 when he and his business partner, Walter Nelson, purchased Citizens State Bank in Buffalo. He served as the bank’s vice chairman, director and senior lending officer. After returning the bank to a highly profitable level, Baine and Nelson sold it to Industry State Bank in 1998. He continued to serve on the bank’s board from 1998 to 2004.
Baine retired briefly only to acquire another bank charter in 1999 that became the First State Bank of Huntsville, with branches in Kosse, Itasca and Whitney. At First State Bank, he served as president, CEO and director. Eventually, each branch was sold to other banking institutions.
After surviving two major heart attacks, in 2010 Baine and Nelson sold First State Bank of Huntsville to First Financial Bank of Abilene (FFIN), a publicly traded institution. He was a FFIN board member and paid consultant through 2016. Upon leaving the FFIN board, Baine became the largest shareholder and a director of Westbound Bank of Katy. He initiated the sale of Westbound Bank to Guaranty Bank and Trust, another publicly traded institution in 2019.
He retired from community banking in 2019, yet continues to serve previous customers with private lending needs, estate and life issues. Today, Baine maintains a real estate and private lending office in Conroe. He and his wife, Jill, have been married 40 years and are the parents of two sons, Jamie (deceased) and Stephen, his wife, Carly, and one granddaughter, Charlotte.
Harlan Raymond Heitkamp was passionate, dedicated, thoughtful, kind and caring, and he believed that nothing is more important than family and friends. These qualities are what made him a great community banker. He was well-respected in his community and among his peers, as well as within his family. He was a true gentleman and always ready to lend a hand.
Heitkamp was born in New Braunfels in 1938 and passed away in 2023 in Corpus Christi. He grew up in Bracken and graduated from Texas Tech University with a master’s degree in civil engineering. After graduation, he moved to Corpus Christi to work for the City of Corpus Christi Department of Engineering.
After working for the city, Heitkamp formed his own civil engineering firm, Maverick Engineering, with offices in Corpus Christi, San Antonio and Houston. While building his engineering firm, he joined the board of The International Bank of Corpus Christi, which led to his decision to become more active in the community banking industry. He formed a control group that purchased five community banks that later became ValueBank Texas. Heitkamp stayed involved with the banks until his death.
One of Heitkamp’s strongest qualities was his commitment to his local community and community banking. He participated in many local charities and his mentorship of these programs lives on today through various memorials. Heitkamp understood the importance of advocating for the community banking industry and did so by serving as chairman of the Independent Bankers Association of Texas (IBAT) (1997–98), as well as chair of IBAT Services Inc. prior to that (1996–97). This was an experience he deeply cherished and in which he took immense pride. He also loved serving as chairman of The Independent Bankers Bank. In this position, Heitkamp cemented some of his most enduring friendships.
Heitkamp is survived by his wife of more than 60 years, Gerry, his son Scott Heitkamp and wife Carrie and his grandchildren, Hailey and Andrew, whom he considered his pride and joy. Scott Heitkamp currently serves as president and CEO of ValueBank Texas in Corpus Christi.
Carmen Jordan, regional president for Ruston, Louisiana-based Origin Bank, is a nationally recognized leader in banking. She has been named by American Banker magazine as one of the “Top 50 Women in Banking.” She has also received numerous awards for her achievements in diversity, being named one of the “Most Powerful and Influential Women in Texas” by the National Diversity Council. Jordan was also honored as one of the “Top 15 Business Women of Houston” by the National Women’s Council.
Jordan launched her banking career at First Interstate Bank (later acquired by Wells Fargo), completing the retail branch management training program and formal credit training, and later following her boss and longtime mentor to Amegy Bank of Texas, for which she worked for 12 years. She went on to serve as chief lending officer of Encore Bank from 2009 to 2012. While in that role, the company achieved significant growth while she also contributed to improving the credit quality of the bank and its regulatory rating, resulting in a stock price appreciation of more than 300 percent in three years.
Jordan joined Mississippi-based IberiaBank as Houston market president in 2012 and helped guide the bank’s loan growth in Houston from $400 million to $1.4 billion in five years while navigating the financial institution through one of the most difficult energy downturns in history.
In 2018, Jordan joined Origin Bank as executive vice president and currently serves as regional president for the greater Houston area. She is responsible for ensuring the highest level of credit quality for all segments—including commercial and industrial, energy, real estate and private banking—while balancing growth with the appropriate level of risk. Since joining Origin Bank, the Houston market has quadrupled loans and doubled deposits while improving overall credit performance and profitability. Jordan’s particular areas of expertise include merger-and-acquisition financing and energy service lending. Jordan also serves on Origin Bank’s corporate loan committee covering Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. Under her leadership, the bank was awarded the “Top 100 Places to Work” in 2022 and 2023 by the Houston Chronicle.
Jordan is actively engaged in her alma mater, Lamar University in Beaumont, where she was recently named a distinguished alumna. She serves on the advisory board and is past-chair of Lamar University’s College of Business and the Lamar University Foundation board, and has established a scholarship for incoming freshman. Jordan currently serves on the board of Nativity Academy, a no-tuition-based Christian school in Houston serving low-income students. Previous nonprofit involvement includes the Executive Women’s Partnership, Fort Bend County Women’s Chamber of Commerce, Holocaust Museum Foundation and Big Brothers Big Sisters, as well as the Houston City Club.
Jordan lives in Sugar Land and has two daughters. She is an active sports enthusiast, playing tennis and soccer, and enjoys boating and traveling.
As a seasoned banking executive and community leader, Vidal H. Ramirez has left an indelible mark on the financial landscape of Houston. With a career spanning more than five decades, Ramirez’s journey has been characterized by transformative leadership, strategic foresight and an unwavering commitment to community development.
Ramirez launched his banking career in 1965 as a teller at the National Bank of Commerce in Brownsville. As his career developed, he gained roles of increasing responsibility at Texas Commerce Bank, River Oaks Bank & Trust, Greater Houston Bank and Unitedbank I-10 West, for which he played a pivotal role alongside Vincent Kickerillo and Walter Mischer Sr. in its transition to Community Bank. From 2002 to 2007, Ramirez served as CEO of Community Bank, responsible for overseeing and managing the Katy office. During his tenure, he was integral in assisting in the sale of Community Bank to Sterling Bank, after which he served as vice chairman.
Ramirez served as vice chairman, director and a founding stakeholder at Allegiance Bank in Houston from 2008 to 2022. He was instrumental in steering the bank's growth in partnership with George Martinez and Steve Retzloff, growing the company from a de novo operation to an institution with $6 billion in assets, culminating in its merger with Community Bank of Texas in 2022 to create Stellar Bank. Ramirez continues to nurture the successful merger of Allegiance Bank and Community Bank, facilitating the establishment of a joint leadership board within the combined organizations. In addition, he is responsible for the bank’s Katy branch office network.
Ramirez holds an undergraduate degree from Texas Southmost College in Brownsville and a graduate degree from the SW Graduate School of Banking at Southern Methodist University. Additionally, he completed the management program at Rice University, showcasing his commitment to continuing education.
Beyond his banking career, Ramirez is deeply engaged in community initiatives, currently serving as chairman of the board at Methodist Hospital West and quality control member and benefits community member at Methodist Hospital System. His community involvement extends to his support of education, contributing his expertise as a member of the steering committee of NW Houston Community College, advisory committee for economic development at the Greater Houston Partnership and Literacy Advance of Houston.
Born in Brownsville, Ramirez and his wife, Magda, have been married for 57 years. They have two children and five grandchildren.
Henry Wu currently serves as chairman and CEO of AFNB Holdings Inc., the parent company of American First National Bank, for which he also serves as chairman. In addition, he is president of Hugesen Polymer USA LP, C&W Packaging LP and C&W Warehouse Inc. Wu previously served as chairman of Texas First National Bank (now Golden Bank) and president of Hugesen Enterprises Inc. and General Merchandise Inc.
Wu was born in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, and married his wife in 1973 with whom he has a son, daughter and four grandchildren. He earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Tunghai University in Taiwan and a master’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Mississippi.
Wu’s first job was as chemical engineer at Amoco Oil Co. in 1974. In 1977, he launched General Merchandise Inc. and subsequently established Hugesen Enterprises Inc. in 1983, C&W Warehouse and C&W Packaging in 1993, and Hugesen Polymer USA in 2005.
Wu joined Texas First National Bank as chairman in 1992. In 1998, he and five other organizers raised $15 million in three days and launched American First National Bank. He has served as chairman since the bank’s establishment. In 2006, AFNB Holdings Inc., a holding company for the bank, was established with Wu serving as chairman and CEO, a position he continues to hold today. With a rapidly expanding business, AFNB moved into a state-of-the-art 12-story building in 2007. In 2011, the company acquired First International Bank, increasing its assets, expanding its market segment into Nevada and increasing its capital. In 2016, AFNB expanded into California with two branches. Today, the bank has 20 branches and one loan production office. Over the past 25 years, the AFNB has remained focused on its core values of simplicity, reliability and customer service. As of November 30, 2023, the AFNB’s total assets are more than $2.6 billion and it employs 258 associates.
Click here to register for the 11th Annual Texas Bankers Hall of Fame Gala, April 25 on the campus of Sam Houston State University in Huntsville.