Q&A James S. “Jimmy” DuBose: Colonial Savings pioneer honored with statewide banking award

Betty Dillard bdillard@bizpress.net When Jimmy DuBose started his career in mortgage banking in 1949 he didn’t know anything about the home financing industry or what he’d be doing. Now, more than six decades later, DuBose, a member of the Greatest Generation just shy of his 90th birthday, is regarded as a legend in the mortgage banking community. The Texas Mortgage Bankers Association recently honored DuBose of Colonial Savings in Fort Worth with the 2014 Larry E. Temple Distinguished Service Award at the organization’s 98th annual convention in Austin. Named for Temple, an Austin attorney, the award recognizes an individual who has provided extraordinary leadership and service to the association and the mortgage banking industry. “That was a total surprise. My wife and son told me we were just going to the convention,” DuBose said. The Fort Worth businessman and civic leader also was honored by a letter he received from longtime friend Temple. “There are a handful of significant pioneers who made the mortgage banking industry in Texas what it is today,” Temple wrote. “You not only built a great company over the last 60 years, you also showed the rest of the world how to operate with creativity, initiative and integrity. In so doing, you gave the mortgage banking industry ‘a good name.’” DuBose founded Fort Worth Mortgage (now Colonial National Mortgage) in 1952 to provide residential home loans to the growing post-World War II communities of North Central Texas. The two-man shop grew steadily over the next 20 years. In 1972, DuBose bought Colonial Savings & Loan, which allowed him to expand his mortgage and insurance businesses. At the same time, he took advantage of government regulation changes and became one of the first to offer lower down payment mortgage loans. During the savings and loan financial crisis of the 1980s and ‘90s that saw thousands of S&Ls fail, Colonial remained steady and solvent. DuBose continued his focus on single-family home loans, personal banking and insurance services while other S&Ls lent money for risky real estate ventures and speculative opportunities. Colonial emerged from the turbulent period stronger than ever, adding branches nationwide. In 1982, DuBose started CU Members Mortgage, a division dedicated to providing credit unions nationwide with mortgage origination and servicing. Today, the Colonial family of companies is a comprehensive, privately-held, national financial corporation with more than 800 employees, offering mortgage, banking, insurance and title services. With a mortgage servicing portfolio of $25 billion and total assets of $1 billion, Colonial is one of the top 30 mortgage servicing companies in the country. You’re a veteran of World War II. Tell us about your experiences. I had been a bomber pilot in World War II. After high school, at Arlington Heights, I went to A&M [Texas A&M University] and joined the Army Air Corps and got into the aviation cadet program. I finished that and got my wings and flew B-17s and B-29s. The closest I got to combat was El Paso. I was in a B-29 crew and we were supposed to go to Japan. They dropped the atomic bomb and they told us to go home. So I got out of the service in 1945. I went to TCU [Texas Christian University] for a little while and then went to the University of Texas and got a degree in business. I went to law school about a year but that wasn’t for me. I didn’t have a job so I applied at General Dynamics but they didn’t have any work for me so I had to go in business for myself, more or less. After World War II a lot of us were all looking for work to do. There weren’t a lot of jobs out there. How did you get into the mortgage banking industry? I didn’t know anything about it. A friend of mine, Wayne Reeves, started an insurance agency and brought me in to start a home mortgage department. After a while I left him and started my own mortgage business. The demand for housing after the war and the building boom made it a good time to be in mortgage banking. I brought in some other friends and we built the company. We moved offices several times as the business grew. One day I thought we should be between the two cities [Dallas and Fort Worth] so we moved to Arlington. After about five years I wanted to move back to Fort Worth – I got tired of the commute. My brother and I bought 14 acres from the city here, and I started building office buildings and banks in this area [along the Trinity River adjacent to Interstate 30 West and just off Forest Park Boulevard]. Then a friend of mine told me about a savings and loan for sale in Lewisville. Earlier in my career you couldn’t own 100 percent of a bank or a savings and loan. Fortunately, the rule had changed then. This savings and loan had less than $1 million in net worth and about $5 million in deposits and it was owned by a friend of ours who wanted to sell it. So I went to First National Bank and got a loan to buy it. That was First National Bank in Dallas. At first, we made loans and sold them. Then we serviced loans. That’s what we wanted as a long-term asset of the company. We started CU Members Mortgage in the ‘80s. We have offices all over the country now. The headquarters are in Dallas. It was an innovative idea at the time, I guess, for credit unions. Over the years it’s become a big deal. We do more new applications with CU Members Mortgage than we do with Colonial Savings. How did Colonial survive the S&L crisis? What did you do different from your competitors? We were lucky there. I saw how hard the commercial building business was. I just didn’t think we should get into that business and make long-term loans. I had seen it was not a profitable deal. It was risky. That’s why most of them went broke. So we didn’t get into that. I always thought this to be our main business, the savings and loan. We still don’t make long-term loans. We make a loan and sell it. We’ve always taken the attitude that if you can’t sell it we shouldn’t be making it. It’s as simple as that. What’s a typical day at the office like for you? At 90 you don’t feel like you’ve got to be here every day. I play golf a couple of days a week. I play tennis a couple of days a week. I come in on Monday for a few hours and go to board meetings. I’m chairman emeritus now. I’m fortunate to have my son, Jim, as chairman – I’m really proud of him – and David Motley as president. They make the day-to-day decisions. I’m not retired entirely. I know exactly what’s going on here. If I haven’t retired in 90 years I guess I never will. What is your legacy? How would you like to be remembered? That’s a good question. If I had gotten a job at General Dynamics, if I hadn’t gone to work for myself, look at all the people I’ve hired over 62 years. Look at how many salaries were paid, how many profit sharing plans were made, the donations we’ve made to charity. Look at the 800 or so employees we have now. What would it have been if I had gone to work for General Dynamics or somebody? What a good thing it’s been to build a business. I’m kind of proud of that. I always say how lucky I am to be in Fort Worth and what a great town it is. And the state. And it’s a great business to be in. When I started a savings and loan I had any number of bankers ask me how I did it. Well, it’s real simple. You just go and buy a savings and loan. I started to buy a bank once but I decided I didn’t want to go to any more board meetings. I always felt like if I couldn’t make it in the mortgage banking business I shouldn’t do it.