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Gone hunting
Regions Bank president Barksdale retiring after decades of service

By Jay Wilson
DAILY Staff Writer

jwilson@decaturdaily.com 340-2440

In his ideal world, Gordon Barksdale would work in a bank steps away from a forest overrun with wild turkey and deer.

Gordon Barksdale spent the past 11 years building Regions' Decatur Banking Group to its current height in the marketplace.
DAILY Photo by Emily Saunders
Gordon Barksdale spent the past 11 years building Regions' Decatur Banking Group to its current height in the marketplace.
He would rise before dawn to hunt, stepping out of his camouflage coveralls at the bank's back door in time to open the front doors to his other passion: people.

Since that world doesn't exist, Barksdale is retiring as president of Regions' Decatur Banking Group after 20 years with the company and more than four decades in the business. Peers say he is giving up one love to spend more time with others.

"I wanted to leave while I'm still in good health and relatively energetic," he said.

Top hunter

"I want to engage in some of my hobbies," Barksdale said, about his decision to retire.

He wants to hunt turkey and deer, manage his hunting property and spend time with family and friends. He is an avid hunter, once named in the top 10 turkey hunters in Alabama.

His view of the sport is changing, though, much like the sportsman.

"It's my passion," he said. "But I'm starting to enjoy watching them as much as taking them."

Barksdale is eager to pull on a pair of boots and work gloves, and labor on his recently purchased hunting farm near Pulaski, Tenn. He began hunting with his father in the 1950s on the Fort Benning military reservation near Columbus, Ga.

Columbus was his home, the town where his father — a veteran of World War II and the Korean conflict — retired from military service. He learned valuable life lessons in Columbus and met Joan, his wife of 42 years. They had three children together.

Barksdale shared his passion for hunting with his children, taking Jeff, Elise and Will on hunting trips. But his faith was tested, and Barksdale now seems to enjoy the outdoors for different reasons, perhaps looking at nature in a different light.

"I took my children hunting," he said. "But Will was the only one that really took to it. He was a much better hunter than me ... an unselfish hunter."

The Barksdales lost their son, Will. Barksdale said it was a tragedy that overwhelmed him. The encourager needed encouragement, and he found it in his community.

"Faith and friends brought us through, and it solidified our love for Decatur," Barksdale said. "Faith has the No. 1 role in my life."

He goes to the woods with many of the same friends who helped him through harder times, and the woods seem to have a special place now more than ever.

'The serenity of it'

"I love anything that has to do with the outdoors ... the serenity of it," Barksdale said. "I'm infatuated with grasses and trees, everything that Mother Nature has put on this earth."

Close friend and retired Decatur surgeon Dr. Dale Trammell said he and Barksdale spend a lot of their time preparing the land on Barksdale's Tennessee farm. They prepare food plots, providing a habitat for turkey and deer. They have grown close on these trips and during their weekly lunches.

"He is very sensitive to the feelings of others, to the way people feel about him," Dr. Trammell said.

Barksdale learned to consider others after working his way through Auburn University, earning a bachelor of science in business administration. When he graduated from the Georgia Banking School at the University of Georgia, he said he learned one of his most important lessons and developed a crucial outlook on life and people.

"Hard work will always be noticed by good companies looking for good people," he said. "It's all about character. I think you look for good quality people and try to help them."

Barksdale said he learned it doesn't matter where you come from in life. What matters is what you do with what you have.

'He cares'

Former employee Margret Ann Templeton worked for three presidents at Regions Bank, starting in 1974 when it was First State Bank. She laughingly warned Barksdale that she was older, and he'd better listen. She was joking, but she said he listened.

Templeton said Barksdale told employees what needed to be done, then left them to do it.

"He was very interested in the other guy ... the customer ... he cares," she said. "And those of us who didn't know anything about hunting and deer and turkey, we know a lot more about it now!"

Small-business legacy

North Alabama Group President Drew Tutt said Barksdale's banking legacy would help small-business owners for years.

As comfortable with company presidents as he is with everyday customers, Barksdale was on the ground floor of Regions' small-business banking program, Tutt said.

He led a team to develop faster processing for small-business loans, paying more attention to the specialized needs of these customers, Tutt said. Barksdale worked on the program before Regions merged with Union Planters.

Barksdale created a small-business program for Regions that, when combined with Union Planters, gives Morgan County small businesses a tremendous ally, according to Tutt. Barksdale grew this program much like he expanded Regions' market share in the Decatur area.

"Gordon had taken Regions-Decatur to 15 percent of the market," Tutt said. "Post-merger, Regions has roughly 25 percent of the market share. He did the job."

Soon to be 63, Barksdale has a consistent history of taking care of the little guy. Those close to him say he's approachable, honest, fair and friendly.

"You don't stay in banking as long as Gordon has without a real fondness for people," said Tutt. "You can't pick your customers, and they can tell whether or not you like what you do."

'Everyone is included'

Calling him the "heir apparent," Barksdale said David Mathews would move into the president's position July 1. Currently the executive vice president, Mathews said he is excited.

At 49, he has 26 years of banking experience coupled with a bachelor of science in finance from Auburn University.

"This is all I've ever done," Mathews said, adding that he read the Wall Street Journal in high school.

Mathews said he liked what Barksdale did and how he led the bank.

He said he would continue what Barksdale started.

"Opening the lines of communication to all levels of employees and including everyone in the process, those are the main contributions Gordon made," Mathews said. "That's how I am, and that's what I hope to continue."

Barksdale said Regions has always focused on the community.

"I never want the bank to lose that," he said.

He said the mark of a good person is what others perceive him to be. Barksdale said he wanted people to perceive him as "interesting, honest and fair."

Dr. Trammell called him honest, Tutt said he was interesting and intelligent, and Templeton branded him fair.

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