B.A. Donelson, 86, of Amarillo passed away on November 22. Born and raised in the Texas Panhandle, he attended Arlington State College on a football scholarship and continued his education at Texas Tech University, playing on the varsity baseball team. He earned his bachelor’s degree in economics and finance in 1958. After college, Donelson returned to the Panhandle and rented a 100-acre dryland farm in Stratford, which he developed for irrigation. But, as he reflected later, he was not very good at farming or irrigation.
In 1967, the First State Bank of Stratford offered Donelson a position, which he accepted. Eventually, he organized a group to purchase the bank. The group went on to acquire North Plains Savings, with branches in Stratford, Dumas and Dalhart. Donelson served as chairman of the board of the newly formed Stratford Bancshares Inc.
Donelson was active in his community, including helping create the Stratford Area Foundation, Stratford Education Foundation, North Panhandle Bankers Association and Stratford Country Club. He was involved with the American Bankers Association, Texas Bankers Association, Independent Bankers Association of Texas (IBAT) and Independent Community Bankers of America. Donelson served as IBAT chairman (1990–91). In addition, he taught at the Southwestern Graduate School of Banking at Southern Methodist University and Texas Tech Intermediate School of Banking.
Donelson was honored in 1992 by the Texas Tech University Ag Conference for service to the commercial banking profession. In 2013, he received the Bruning Award from the American Bankers Association for his commitment to agricultural banking. Donelson was inducted into the Texas Bankers Hall of Fame in 2017.
At 17, Donelson married the love of his life, LeRayne Mitts, in 1953, in Tucumcari, New Mexico. They had two daughters, Barrie and Blynn. He and LeRayne enjoyed 69 years of marriage. He credited her for helping the couple make it through his college years. Donalson even wrote a book about their love and life together, entitled Startin’ Early. The couple moved from Stratford to Amarillo in 2012. In his spare time, Donelson enjoyed golfing and was on the greens whenever he had free time.
Donelson is survived by his wife, two daughters, eight grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren and additional extended family.