B. T. (Tol) Ware II, Amarillo banker and philanthropist, died May 12th at the age of 95.
He was Chairman of Amarillo National Bank, the largest 100% family owned bank in the United States. His grandfather and namesake purchased the bank in 1908, and it has remained in the family’s hands, with the 5th generation now in the bank. He and his sons were named “Bankers of the Century” by Texas Monthly magazine in 1999.
Tol graduated from Amarillo High School and attended the University of Texas where he was President of his fraternity, a member of the Cowboys, and intramural champion in tennis and baseball. He was in the U.S. Army during World War II.
Tol believed in behind the scenes support and delegated decision making in business, civic and charitable activities. He served on the Boards of most of the major charities in Amarillo, and was very active in nearly every fundraising drive over the last 60 years. He stepped up at critical times in politics, leading fund raising for Ray Vahue and Jerry Hodge’s campaigns, and changing the board at the Palo Duro Club.
Philanthropic activities covered a broad range in Amarillo from the Ware Tower at BSA Hospital to the Ware Living Center at Park Central to the Kid’s Inc. Warehouse headquarters to the Tol Ware Park at City Church. He was named Philanthropist of the Year in 2004.
He also believed that family ownership had its advantages and was very proud of Amarillo National being the only major bank in Texas, with three generations of the family on the active Board of Directors. This tied in with his lifelong belief in the importance of local ownership.
He was an avid tennis player and a driving force behind the Tennis Center at Austin Middle School and the indoor facilities at Amarillo Country Club, T Bar M and the Amarillo National Tennis Center in 1963. He was ranked number two in Texas in Father and Son tennis. Tol also coached both his sons in Kid’s Inc. basketball and baseball teams.
Tol exercised everyday since college, playing tennis for 65 years, swimming and walking—including walking nine dogs to death. The Amarillo National Bank Health Club has a simple chrome plaque at the door that says merely “Thanks Tol”. Just his style---short, simple and humble.
As a second generation member of Polk Street United Methodist Church, he was thrilled to attend each Sunday, with the 3rd, 4th and 5th generations of his family.
Mary, his wife of 68 years, died in 2011 and his son, Bill, died in 2012. He is survived by his son, Richard, and his grandchildren, Anne-Clayton Vroom of Dallas, William, Pat, Benj, W. Tol and Savannah Singleton, all of Amarillo, as well as eight great-grand children.
The family requests that in lieu of flowers, memorials be sent to The Ware Living Center at Park Central, Kid’s Inc., Animal Rescue Shelter or a favorite charity.
The funeral will be held this Wednesday, May 14th, 11:00am at Polk Street Methodist Church.
Dr. J Burt Palmer and Dr. Winfred Moore will lead the service.
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