John A. Hand History
John Anthon Hand was a leader of the Alabama banking and financial community for more than 40 years.
Born in Rome, Georgia, and educated in the public schools there, he began his career as a clerk of the Fourth National Bank of Macon, Georgia. In 1924 the comptroller of the Currency appointed him an assistant national bank examiner for the Sixth Federal Reserve District. He stayed with the Federal Reserve System for five years, but when the American Traders National Bank in Birmingham offered him a job as auditor, he accepted and spent the next two years reorganizing the suburban operations of that bank. Two years later the American Traders National Bank merged with the First National Bank of Birmingham. Mr. Hand became the comptroller at First National and was launched on a career there that lasted until he retired in 1972.
That career reached its culmination in the years after 1956, when Mr. Hand served first as the president, and then as the chief executive officer of the bank. By any criterion his tenure was a success: during his administration the amount of money on deposit at First National more than doubled, and the number of its branches increased from 13 to 29. Mr. Hand was the first person to be inducted into the Alabama Business Hall of Fame while he was still living. Typically induction into the Hall of Fame occurred 2 years after one’s passing. The state of Alabama wanted Mr. Hand to be honored while he was still living.
His influence within the Birmingham business community grew with the prosperity of the bank. Before he retired, Mr. Hand was asked to sit on the boards of such corporations as the Alabama Gas Company, the Alabama Power company, the Protective life Insurance Company, and Moore-Handley Hardware. At the time of his induction into the Academy, he sat on the boards of the Steward Machine Company and the Engel Mortgage Company of Birmingham. In addition, he maintained an office in the First National-Southern Natural Building, the 30-story headquarters completed during his term as chief executive officer.
Throughout his career Mr. Hand encouraged his employees to participate in community affairs–and typically, he set them an example that they may be hard put to it to follow. During his years with First National, he served at one time or another as the president of the Birmingham Rotary Club, as a Director of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, and as a member of the board of visitors of the School of Commerce at the University of Alabama. In the early 1950’s he became the first President of the Birmingham Festival of the Arts.
For many years he was a member of the board of directors of the Jefferson County Community Chest, and in 1951 he served the organization as its general appeals chairman as well. In addition, the Salvation Army profited from his willingness to serve, both as an active member and as vice chairman.
In recognition of Mr. Hand’s lifetime of service to the community, two universities named him an Honorary Doctor of Law–Samford University in 1967, and the University of Alabama in 1971. In addition, the First National Bank honored him in a unique way by naming its old headquarters the John A. Hand Building when the bank moved into its new building in 1971.
Mr. Hand was married to the former Eula Elizabeth Gibson in 1930. He is now deceased.
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