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Thomas retires after distinguished career as banker

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    Alan Childs (l-r), Cheryl Thomas and Thad Childs, who started working together at the Bank of Gray, at a surprise party in Thomas’s honor at Morris Bank. CONTRIBUTED
  • Article Image Alt Text
    Cheryl Thomas (seated center) surrounded by her family at the conclusion of a retirement party held for her, July 21. CONTRIBUTED
  • Article Image Alt Text
    Cheryl Thomas was voted Miss FBLA during her junior year of high school, and this photo that was taken in an office at the Bank of Gray appeared in the school’s yearbook. A few years later, the same office became hers. CONTRIBUTED

Six decades after starting her first job, a Jones County banker has decided the time has come for her to retire.

Cheryl Thomas will retire from her job at Morris Bank, where she is currently an Assistant Vice President and Lead Customer Service Representative, the first week of August.

Thomas said her very first job was at The Jones County News when she was 15, and her mother took her to work. She said she knew her family was not financially able to send her to college, so she took business courses in high school to prepare to go to work when she graduated.

Her skill on the typewriter and her ability to take shorthand made her a standout. Thomas said her real ‘claim to fame’ was she could type 120 words per minute on a manual typewriter.

She was voted Miss FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America) when she was a junior at Jones County High School and notably had her picture taken in the same office at the Bank of Gray she would later occupy as the bank’s first female vice president.

Thomas’s typing ability got her a job in the Jones County Superior Court Clerk’s office when she was a senior, and she would continue to work at the courthouse on her off days at the bank until her twin girls were born in 1965.

She recalled it was D.V. Childs who hired her at the Bank of Gray, June 2, 1962.

It is important to note that, when she started working at the bank and the courthouse, neither of the facilities had a copy machine. Every ledger and document were filled out by hand or typed individually.

Thomas said she remembered an especially long court case that had 700 pages. When an attorney needed a copy of the case, she was one of the people who had to type the second copy.

She was 17 when she started working at the bank, and because of her office skills, she became the secretary of the Board of Directors and continued in that position for 50 years.

Thomas took the usual route to move up at the bank, starting as a teller and a bookkeeper. But she was named head teller at the age of 24, after the bank’s previous head teller was killed in an automobile accident.

The banker’s career followed the Bank of Gray as it grew. Not only was she the first female vice president of the bank but she was also Chief Operations Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Senior Vice President, Bank Security Act Officer and the bank’s Corporate Secretary.

Computers were integrated into the Bank of Gray beginning in 1982.

Thomas dealt with bank examiners and FDIC examiners for 48 years. She said, when she became Chief Operations Officer, the Bank of Gray had a little over $1 million in assets, and when it merged with Security Bank in 2009, the bank was valued at over $200 million.

She said she spent many late nights at the bank. Thomas was 47 when her husband died, and she credits her career with getting her through those difficult times.

Thomas stayed with Security Bank through the bank’s failure and its sale to State Bank. While at State Bank, she worked in Macon for two years as the bank’s Regional Operations Manager writing policy and procedures before accepting a position at Morris Bank in 2012. That move was at the same time that Thad and Alan Childs were hired by Morris Bank.

Thomas said she was proud of the fact that the Gray branch of Morris Bank was the fastest growing branch in the country in 2013.

The banker said she knew she needed to decide the right time to retire, and with her mother at 94 years old, it seems the right time to spend more time with her.

Thomas is originally from Clarksville. Her family included her parents and four siblings. They moved to Gray in 1952 when she was in the third grade, and the rest of her education took place in Jones County schools.

“I grew up in Round Oak. It was a wonderful time and place to grow up,” she said.