In 1894, Claiborne National Bank was established in the Appalachian Mountains of East Tennessee in the town of Tazewell. The bank’s first president, George Montgomery, a Claiborne County native, lead the bank to prosperity. In 1919, during the bank’s 20-year anniversary, the name was changed to Claiborne County Bank, which remained the name until the late 1980’s when Chairman Glenn Yoakum decided to expand the bank into Hancock and Union Counties. The bank was no longer a one county bank, and as a result, the name was changed to First Claiborne Bank. However, in 1999, the bank celebrated a “Century of Service,” and to honor that achievement the bank’s name was changed to First Century Bank.
Our story would not be complete if we did not share the purpose of our symbol, the OAK TREE. In the fall of 1936, a 23-year-old man from Authur, Tennessee, named Glenn Yoakum, was hired as a teller. He was one of the Bank’s only five employees. He was proud to call himself a banker; however, as World War II escalated, Yoakum joined the Navy in order to serve his country. After the war ended, Lieutenant Yoakum returned to the bank where his position remained. Mr. Yoakum became a seasoned banker, gaining the respect of the community and his co-workers. When the Bank’s president, J. T. Hughes, passed away, Mr. Yoakum was named president.
To his community, Yoakum was a servant leader. He served 28 years on the Claiborne County School Board (many as Chairman,) he served as Claiborne County Judge, and he served two terms in the Tennessee State Senate. In 1952, Mr. Yoakum established Yoakum Oil Company, which was a distributorship for Shell Oil Company in five counties. True to his farming roots and realizing the importance of cattle and tobacco to the community, he purchased Banner Tobacco Warehouse and the Tazewell Stock Barn. These businesses quickly became some of the most prosperous merchants in East Tennessee.
In 1990, Mr. Yoakum suffered a life ending heart attack, but not before he had created his own legacy in the community he loved. The Claiborne Progress paid tribute to Mr. Yoakum with a front page heading that read: “A MIGHTY OAK HAS FALLEN.” This reference was a fitting analogy as Mr. Yoakum’s life, in many ways, resembled the Oak Tree - strong roots, solid core, and standing tall with pride and dignity. As a tribute to his legacy, the oak tree was added to the bank’s logo.
Today, Glenn Yoakum’s legacy remains strong with daughter, Eleanor Yoakum, and grandson, Rob Barger, leading the bank. Mr. Yoakum’s leadership is evident in Ms. Yoakum’s actions: she has served in Tennessee State Government as the Commissioner of Personnel and as Chief of Staff to the Governor. Eleanor recalls:
“The bank was more than bricks and mortar, or even a business; it was a family of people serving the community in a spirit that was unique and special to us.”
This is the philosophy and mindset that continues to pave the way for the bank to present day. In 1998, after graduating from the University of Tennessee, Eleanor’s son and current CEO, Rob Barger, began his career at the bank. In 2008, just before the nation’s financial issues, Mr. Barger was promoted to CEO of First Century Bank. Like his grandfather, Rob took the helm during a very difficult economic environment. The first six years would prove to be some of the toughest years in the Bank’s history. However, under Rob’s leadership, a strong executive team, and with Eleanor’s support, the bank again returned to prosperity.
Today, the legacies of the past are not forgotten. The bank’s roots are strong, creating a solid foundation for an institution that stands tall with pride and dignity, just like the Oak Tree.
"Our family has been a part of this bank since 1936. It has been an honor and a tremendous responsibility. I am pleased to offer this brief historical perspective of First Century Bank." Eleanor Yoakum, Chairman of the Board