Frank S. Davis sat in his hotel room listening to the sounds outside. He heard the clatter of horse-drawn wagons, the tramp of marching feet, and the shouts of military commands. The time was March 1864. The city was Memphis.
It had been nearly two years since Memphis was placed under strict military control, which caused a halt in much of the city's development. With the entire business and social life of the community dominated by the military, Memphis was beginning to feel the crushing hand of the Civil War. Building activity had ceased and trade was at a standstill. The once prosperous city was now dormant.
Davis, understanding these hard times, sensed a real need for an expansion of banking and credit facilities. When the National Banking Act of 1863 was passed, Davis recognized the many advantages offered by a system of national banks chartered and supervised by the Federal government. It was because of this insight that Frank S. Davis founded the city's first national bank, which grew into today's First Horizon National Corporation.
On March 10, 1864, Davis called a meeting of people favoring the organization of a national bank. At this meeting were Davis, Lewis Howes, William H. Brooks, William A. Gwyn, I. C. Elston Jr., Robert McGregor, John G. Wallace and S. H. DeBe Voise. The Articles of Association were drafted, and all the men at that meeting became directors of First National Bank of Memphis. Davis was elected president, a position he held for 18 years, and Elston cashier.
Immediately after the bank was organized, the application for a national charter was filed. The bank's charter was received on March 25, 1864. To Davis, that date marked the fulfillment of an earnest ambition; to Memphians, it was the beginning of a new era in banking.
First National Bank of Memphis started business in just one room in a building on North Court Street. Two months later, the bank moved to expanded space at No. 9 Madison Street with monthly rent of $75.
Timing was a major factor in the progress of the new bank. Memphis was in economic ruin from the Civil War. The city was overrun by troops, and trading was almost totally destroyed. These conditions, which lasted well into the following year, hindered but did not stop the progress of First National Bank.
By 1865, the need for a larger banking quarters became apparent, and the bank bought a two-story building at 14 Madison Street. It wasn't until the summer of 1866 – after the war had ended – that Memphis began to emerge from its financial difficulties. Public improvements were resumed, railroads were rebuilt, and the whole city took on more life.
During the next seven years, thousands who had left Memphis during the war returned to resume their normal activities. The population rose to 45,000, and there was a feeling of prosperity and renewed faith in the city's future.
But in spite of the optimistic outlook, the future held some very trying times. Perhaps the greatest challenge occurred in 1878 when yellow fever struck Memphis and reduced the population from 50,000 to 16,000, nearly wiping out the city. Our bank employees were severely affected, and there was pressure to close the bank.
However, a man by the name of Charles Q. Harris, a bookkeeper, volunteered to remain at his post and serve our clients throughout the crisis. He admirably performed his duties until the fever subsided. One employee, one hero, carried the torch in the face of great adversity and succeeded. Our Firstpower culture was alive and well, even all the way back to 1878.
So after 17 years of war, oppression, panic and pestilence, the people of Memphis remained unbroken in spirit. They were determined to go forward. The year 1913 was an important one in the history of banking. Congress passed the Federal Reserve Act, authorizing the establishment of a Federal Reserve Bank in each of 12 geographic districts in the United States. First National was one of five banks in the Eighth District designated to execute the organization certificate for the incorporation of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, of which the Federal Reserve Bank of Memphis is a branch.
One of the city's outstanding banks at the time was Central-State National. This bank had recently remodeled its banking room and was well equipped to handle a large volume of business. In July 1926 a merger – First National's first – was completed with Central-State National Bank. Under the terms of the merger, First National retained its name and charter, and former Central-State president S. E. Ragland became president of First National.
By 1939 Memphis had grown tremendously. People were traveling on 650 miles of paved roads and enjoying 29 public parks, and the airport was enlarged to 500 acres. Because of the rapid growth of the city, First National had to take steps to meet the challenge.
One such step was to expand the facilities and open a suburban branch. The Crosstown branch opened in 1942 with a staff of two officers and 15 employees. The building was designed so that if the branch concept did not work, the building could instead be used as a Piggly Wiggly supermarket. With the coming of World War II, the city's progress slowed and turned its efforts toward wartime activities. In January 1943, Ragland was elected chairman of the board and Norfleet Turner became First National's seventh president. Turner was determined to accelerate growth and help put First National in the forefront of the South's modern and progressive banks. Once the war ended in 1945, this task became much easier.
As time went on, Memphis' and First National's popularity increased. Between 1940 and 1950, Memphis rose from 32nd largest city in the nation to 26th. During 1952, First National's seventh branch opened. Just eight years later, two more major changes were made in the bank. Norfleet Turner was named chairman of the board and Allen Morgan succeeded him as president. Together these two men served 85 years at First Tennessee.
One of the largest problems confronting First National as it approached its 100th anniversary was lack of space. Late in 1961, plans were announced for the construction of a 23-story bank and office building at Madison Avenue and Third Street. First National moved into its new building on March 23, 1964. Two days later, the 100th anniversary was celebrated with a flag-raising ceremony on the plaza of the new building while the First National Bank choir sang "The Star Spangled Banner." The building remains the corporation's headquarters to this day.
First National continued to grow. By 1967, it had become the largest bank in the Mid-South.
Two years later, First National Holding Company, a one-bank holding company, was organized.
In 1971, the holding company's name was changed to First Tennessee National Corporation. Its structure changed to that of a multi-bank holding company, paving the way for First Tennessee's acquisition of banks throughout the state to begin in 1972.
First National Bank of Memphis changed its name to First Tennessee Bank on Jan. 1, 1977. Ralph Horn, chief executive officer of First Tennessee since April 1994, was named chairman of the board on January 1, 1996. He succeeded Ronald Terry, who was chairman and chief executive officer for 22 years – from 1973-1995. Horn began his career at First Tennessee working in the bond division (today's FTN Financial) in 1963.
In 2003, Horn retired after 40 years with the company. The year before, Ken Glass had succeeded Horn as CEO, and with the retirement, Glass also added the chairman of the board title.
In 2004, the corporation changed the name of the parent company to First Horizon National Corp.
In 2007, Ken Glass retired as chairman and CEO. The board of directors named Jerry Baker CEO and Mike Rose as chairman of the board.
Bryan Jordan became president and chief executive officer in 2008.
First Horizon National Corp. is now one of the largest banking companies in the U.S. in asset size and market capitalization. Our family of companies has almost 5,000 employees who provide the highest quality service in banking supported by the latest technology. First Horizon National Corp. companies have earned recognition in the national media as some of the nation's best employers. First Horizon, First Tennessee and FTN Financial also can claim some of the most loyal and satisfied customers in the industry.
"Our Vision — We are dedicated to becoming the most respected regional financial services company with the best people empowered to build enduring relationships."