Kenneth Peeler: A Pillar of the Community
written by elizabeth york | photos by shelby lynn photography & provided by the peeler family
Kenneth Peeler has emerged through decades of busts, booms and change as a fruitful leader in the Midland area. When he and his late wife, LaVoe, moved to Midland in 1951, the town of about 20,000 was a bustling contrast to their native Levelland. Ken Peeler had spent time in the U.S. Army around the end of World War II, stationed at Camp Hood (now Fort Hood) before marrying his hometown sweetheart.
“I’ve always been kind of civic-minded. My dad was one who believed in giving back to the community and I grew up that way.”
Peeler came to the Tall City to take a position as a bookkeeper for a newly formed company, Midland 66 Oil Co., a jobber for Phillips 66 products. “We had been renting a company house for $10 a month in Levelland. We came to Midland during the Sprayberry boom, and I realized with the new housing costs, I didn’t have as big of a gain as I thought I’d have,” Peeler remembered with a laugh.
Kenneth & LaVoe Peeler
The couple welcomed their first son, Kyle, shortly after Midland Memorial Hospital was completed. Their second son, Bruce, was born on Kyle’s birthday three years later. The young family was involved in Boy Scouts with both sons becoming Eagle Scouts. Peeler became president of the south side Lion’s Club. “I’ve always been kind of civic-minded,” he said. “My dad was one who believed in giving back to the community and I grew up that way.”
Kenneth with sons Bruce, Kyle, & their wives Pam & Allison
Peeler became president of his company and a community fixture, known for his hard work and kind demeanor. He joined the Midland College Board of Trustees in 1972 as an original member, and still serves on the board. “I can’t say enough good of the citizens of Midland because they have been so supportive of MC,” he said. “You just show the need and there’s someone there with an answer for you. I’ll never forget, when we started developing the campus, we got a letter from a local citizen saying, ‘You need to get rid of those sticks and put some trees on campus,’ and enclosed a sizable check that allowed us to do so. It seemed like one thing after another. It’s been very rewarding to see.”
The Peeler family
In 1982, several local leaders met with Peeler to discuss the need for a bank to serve the southeast Midland population. “After that, a banker on the north side of town called and said, ‘You need to be on the north side.’ But I was trying to fill a need on the southeast side, and to reach the rural farming and ranching community,” Peeler said. “I thought it was an opportunity to help them.” The group applied for a charter, and Community National Bank opened in the fall of 1983. The first location was in a modular building at the corner of Florida and Terrell streets. The structure still had a trailer hitch attached to it, and Peeler was ribbed about the possibility that the bank could be hauled off in a heist. “We were the brunt of a few jokes, but still people wanted to be part of it,” Peeler said. LaVoe, an artist, decorated the outside with a miniature pump jack, and several customers brought trees as gifts to pitch into the landscaping. “It was kind of a team effort. I was just real proud of it,” Peeler said.
During the mid-80s, oil prices plummeted, and a bust sank struggling businesses. “All the banks were in trouble. The government was closing three to five banks a week in Texas,” Peeler remembered. Local banking leaders called a meeting in downtown Midland, and Peeler was invited and given a proposition: he could join his bank with three other local banks with the hopes that, together, they could survive. “I thought about it and went to my board,” Peeler said. “I said, ‘As many problems as we have, we’re still in the best shape of all of them.’ “So, we refused to join.”
1973 ground breaking: Fred Wright, Reagan Legg, Al Langford, Murray Fasken, Hoyle McCright, Jack Huff, Ken Peeler, Rev. H.F. Doyle & Gloria Hinojosa
Community National Bank was the only local bank that survived that period. Peeler credits careful business decisions and good leadership among his staff for weathering the economic storm. “I don’t care what kind of business you’re in. If you’ve got the right people, you can survive almost anything,” he said. “Take care of your people, and they’ll take care of you.”
Today, Community National Bank has 11 locations in Midland, Odessa and Stanton, and recently opened a branch loan office in Dallas. “I didn’t ever dream that we’d be the size we are. I think we’re just a local bank that really has a feel for the people,” Peeler said. “A lot of people like the idea of a locally-owned bank. I credit our great leaders and employees who understand the customers.”
“I believe we are put on this earth to serve others. I do not think success can be measured purely in terms of dollars and bank accounts. What one does for others is equally important.” - Ken Peeler
Peeler is dedicated to the community of Midland serving on numerous boards, in civic and professional organizations and is a faithful church member. He was president of the Buffalo Trail Council in 1984-85 and in 1982 received the Silver Beaver Award for service in scouting. He was Chair of the M-Squad membership committee, Chair of the Farm and Ranch Committee, a founding board member of Midland 911, a past board member of High Sky Children’s Ranch, and long-time board member of the Midland Chamber of Commerce, as well as a board member and 1975 President of the Texas Oil Marketers Association (TOMA). On the occasion of receiving the E.K. Bennet Award from the Texas Oil Marketers Association in 1990, The TOMA magazine stated “in all of his activities - personal, business and civic - Ken Peeler has tried to abide by one basic philosophy that has guided him throughout all his life; Ken remarked, “I believe we are put on this earth to serve others. I do not think success can be measured purely in terms of dollars and bank accounts. What one does for others is equally important.” The article continued to say, “Wise Words from a man who insists he is not very philosophical”. Peelers philosophy of giving translated to the bank as well, which has sponsored many local events. “That’s what it’s all about,” Peeler said. “We have a lot of pride in Midland.”
Together, Ken and LaVoe’s legacy has reached far. Kyle is a Midland County judge and Bruce is the founder of Air Compressor Solutions in Odessa. The family includes five grandsons, one granddaughter, four great-granddaughters and two great-grandsons. “We had a good life and a great 69 years of marriage,” Peeler said of LaVoe, who died in 2017. “I miss her. She did a great job raising our sons. I’m proud of them; they’ve been a real pleasure.”
LaVoe Peeler: Wife, Mother, Artist
Midland College held a reception in LaVoe’s honor in May, her artwork was was on display in the Allison Fine Arts Building. MC President, Dr. Steve Thomas, said of Ken’s service, “He is one of the longest-serving community college board members in Texas. I have always appreciated Ken’s full understanding of his role as a board member to govern and to support.”
LaVoe’s artwork was honored and displayed in the Allison Fine Arts Building at Midland College
Meg Gann, CNB Board of Directors secretary, describes Peeler as a gentleman. “He is a very caring person. He smiles all the time,” she said. “He has been influential in helping build the largest community bank in Midland through his initial vision.”
“We had a good life and a great 69 years of marriage. I miss her. She did a great job raising our sons. I’m proud of them; they’ve been a real pleasure.” - Ken Peeler
Peeler steers the praise back to the community he calls home. “I think an awful lot of Midland. It has been a great place to grow your kids and a great place to live,” he said. “The community has been so good to me. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. I think Midland has got a lot of wonderful years ahead.” †