For more than 100 years, Central Bank has been a cornerstone of our Missouri communities, as both a corporate and civic citizen. Its history and success is intertwined with the history and success of Missouri.
Central Bank began its legacy on January 9, 1902, with the formation of the Central Missouri trust company. Lon Stephens, a Cooper County banker who came to Jefferson City as Missouri’s State Treasurer in 1893, was elected Governor of the state in 1896 and served in that position until January 1901. He was one of the leaders in the creation of the Central Missouri Trust Company and was chosen as its first President.The second President of the Trust was Lester Parker, a businessman who moved from Chicago to Jefferson City during the 1890s to operate a factory inside the walls of the Missouri State Penitentiary. Parker served as President until Sam Baker Cook replaced him in 1905.Sam Baker Cook moved to Jefferson City in 1900, after being elected Missouri’s Secretary of State. Upon leaving state office in 1905, he assumed the presidency of the Central Missouri Trust Company, beginning a legacy of service to Central Bank and the community that continues today.
Sam Baker Cook’s greatest contribution to Jefferson City was leading the fight to make sure that it would remain the state capital. Controversy over Missouri’s permanent seat of government surfaced repeatedly throughout the nineteenth century and re-emerged in the early twentieth century, after the Capitol Building was struck by lightning and destroyed by fire on February 5, 1911. Jefferson City leaders, with Cook at the helm, fought to secure the city’s future by preserving it as the state capital. On August 1, 1911, Missourians voted to issue $3,500,000 in bonds to build a new capitol in Jefferson City. Late that night, when victory appeared certain, a crowd of Jefferson City revelers aroused Sam Baker Cook from his sleep and persuaded him to march at the head of an impromptu victory parade.
In 1916, the Central Missouri Trust Company moved into a spacious, new seven-story structure at the corner of High and Madison streets. Designed by local architect Frank B. Miller, the new bank building was made of the same Carthage stone used in the capitol construction. Contemporaries referred to it as the city’s first “skyscraper”. The Impressive building was made available for various civic endeavors, including Red Cross activities during World War I. In the first 15 years, the resources of Central Missouri Trust Company more than tripled, as the bank enlarged the scope of its activities to meet its commitment to help Jefferson City grow. Sam Baker Cook continued to lead the Central Missouri Trust Company and promote the interest of his adopted hometown until his death on February 5, 1931. He was succeeded by his son, Howard, who had begun working at the bank as a high school student in 1905, the year that Sam Baker Cook became President.
Howard Cook took over the bank in the heart of the Great Depression, a period when the country’s economic problems caused many banks to go out of business and threatened the core of Jefferson City’s economy – state government. By mid-September 1933, the Depression had taken its toll on state income. With a roughly $4 million shortfall in revenue, the state of Missouri had only $15,000 in its general revenue fund, clearly not enough to meet the monthly state payroll of $300,000. In addition, state officials were notified that Missouri needed to come up with $250,000 to make the state eligible to receive federal relief funds. On September 15, 1933, Howard Cook agreed to make available to the state of Missouri up to $1,000,000 so state employees could be paid and Missouri could secure federal relief funds helping the state of Missouri survive a financial crisis. And, true to its colors, the bank was prepared to pay its depositors in full at all times, operating continuously through the Depression without corporate changes or reorganization. Jefferson City began the Depression with six banks, and Central Missouri Trust Company was one of only two that survived.
Like his father before him, Howard Cook passed on the leadership of the Central Missouri Trust Company to his son. Sam B. Cook assumed the presidency of the bank in 1961. A veteran of military service in World War II and a graduate of Yale University, Sam B. Cook presided over unprecedented expansion of the bank and its operations. In 1967, the Central Data Company was opened, resulting in the Trust Company becoming a leader in data processing and information retrieval. In 1969, after 67 years of service, Central Missouri Trust Company was renamed The Central Trust Bank, a name that was shortened to Central Bank in 1987.
Central Bank kept growing, and also became part of a larger and growing corporation. In 1970, Central Bancompany, Inc. was formed, with Cook and his brother, Jefferson City attorney Howard Winston Cook, serving as registered agents. Central Bancompany currently operates 13 banks throughout Missouri, Illinois, Kansas, and Oklahoma with over $8.5 billion in assets.
As the twenty-first century progresses, Central Bank officials have the same vision for the future that guided their predecessors over a century ago. Central Bank will continue to be committed to taking a central role in the community. To offer more than banking services – to take a part in the education of our children, in community sports programs, and to lend our expertise and support to organizations dedicated to improving our community.
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