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Despite battling brain cancer, the businessman is still going strong
Boone A. Knox

C lose friends of Boone A. Knox attribute the longtime success of the prominent businessman to his keen insightfulness.

"He's a visionary," said Jim Alfriend, a local businessman and friend for more than 30 years of Mr. Knox. "Boone has a tremendous knowledge of what it takes to be successful as a businessman. He can calculate from A-Z what it's going to take to make a business successful. The ability to do that is uncanny, but it's worked. I so admire and love Boone and his family."

Mr. Knox prefers to think of his success in more simple terms. He said he had surrounded himself with a lot of good, hardworking people through the years.

"They've been very efficient," said Mr. Knox. "I'd tell them 'Let's go, let's go' and they'd get it done. "

Mr. Knox's success in the business world came through the bloodline of his father, the late Peter Knox, Jr. and brother, Peter Knox, III.

Before Boone Knox became chairman, chief executive officer and later president of the Bank of Thomson back in 1975, he had qualified to play in the British Amateur Golf Tournament in Scotland.

His father had other plans for his son, though. Pete Knox, Jr. wanted Boone to get into the banking business.

"I didn't know anything about banking," admitted Boone Knox during an in-depth interview with The McDuffie Mirror at his Knox, Ltd. and Knox Foundation office near Thomson last Thursday. "My Daddy told me he wanted me to have a job in banking."

Because he followed his father's advice, Boone Knox became a highly-successful banking executive in Georgia.

"I taught him everything he learned about banking when he came to the Bank of Thomson," laughed Judy Whiddon, who has worked for Mr. Knox for more than 30 years. "I like to claim it, anyway."

Mrs. Whiddon, who lives in Thomson, still works for the 73-year-old Mr. Knox at Knox, Ltd. and Knox Foundation.

Mr. Knox, who formerly lived in Thomson but who now resides in Augusta, caught on to the financial ropes of banking quickly, later founded Allied Bank Shares, Inc., which rapidly grew into a multi-million dollar operation.

"We had twice as many assets as we did employees," said Mr. Knox.

Despite battling brain cancer today, Mr. Knox still is a hands-on businessman 24-7, says Bobbie Crutchfield, another former Bank of Thomson employee, who still works for him.

"He's a person who pays attention to the smallest details," said Mrs. Crutchfield. "He's a man who works hard everyday and keeps up with everything."

Because he works so hard, it's always made his employees want to dig in and work a little harder, too, added Mrs. Crutchfield.

When it comes to paying attention to small details, Mrs. Crutchfield said, "I'm the same way."

Mr. Knox interjected his thought on the subject, saying, "This is what we do."

Mrs. Crutchfield said her boss has been "super" to work for over the years.

"He's always been such a great person to learn from," she said. "He has so much patience when he's teaching you something."

Jerry Williams, another Thomson resident, who has worked for Mr. Knox for the past 38 years, said he has enjoyed his employment with Mr. Knox because of his friendship and honesty.

"He gives you so many opportunities to better yourself," said Mr. Williams. "It helps provide you with a better life, provided you're willing to work hard for those opportunities. He doesn't just hand you those opportunities; he expects you to work for them."

When Mr. Knox came to the Bank of Thomson back in the mid 70s, he served as chairman of the board and chief executive officer. Later in his banking career, he even served as president.

"Mr. Knox is a man who doesn't know what the word no means," said Mr. Williams, noting his boss expects his employees to find a way to get the job done and done right.

Mr. Knox said he has been fortunate through the years to have had so many fine employees work for him.

"They've been the ones that have made it happen," said Mr. Knox, sitting on the end of a sofa while puffing on a cigarette at his office, located on Washington Road, just outside Thomson. "I had such great people working for me at the bank."

Under his leadership, several women were promoted to officers at the bank branches, which help to set somewhat of a trend in the banking industry as women began receiving those kinds of promotions at banks across the state.

"I had a lot of women working for me at banks and most of them did an excellent job," said Mr. Knox. "I believed in promoting those that excelled."

Many of those individuals who worked at the Bank of Thomson's main office in Thomson and 25 other branches throughout the many parts of the Central Savannah River Area actually worked for him until they retired. Others stayed on and retired after the bank was sold many years later to Regions.

The Bank of Thomson steadily grew under the leadership of Mr. Knox, who was named a recipient of the Darrell Johnson Service Award by officials with the Thomson-McDuffie County Chamber of Commerce three years ago.

Some years at Christmas, Mr. Knox dressed as Santa Claus, handing out bonuses to his employees. There was even a year that he bought dresses for 20-25 female employees, said Mrs. Whiddon.

"I had more fun than anything playing Santa Claus," said Mr. Knox.

Mr. Knox said he was most proud of what he was able to accomplish during his banking career.

Again, he reiterated that it couldn't have happened without the help of a lot of exceptional and talented employees.

"I give them the credit," said an unselfish Mr. Knox.

Earlier this year, the building that once served as headquarters for the Bank of Thomson, was closed by bank officials with Regions. The building is now up for sale.

While Mr. Knox was at the Bank of Thomson, he encouraged his employees to save a portion of their wages and invest in BT Investments, Inc. -- something he started in 1978. He wanted them to have money for their use when they got older, remembered Mrs. Whiddon, who started her banking career two years earlier than Mr. Knox's arrival to the banking scene.

"I wish I hadn't bought that extra dress here and there and saved that money like he advised us to do," she said. "I'd have a lot more money in savings now."

Another time, Mrs. Whiddon said, she had her mind set on buying some furniture with saved money.

Mr. Knox again encouraged her to invest her money rather than spending it.

She ended up buying the furniture and getting an amount added to her investment savings, too.

But she didn't put the money into the account.

"Mr. Knox had debited my account the next day," said Mrs. Whiddon. "And boy did it do great. That's the kind of man Boone Knox was and still is today -- a real kind-hearted man."

His philosophy in life is a rather simple one:

"Work hard and be honest," said Mr. Knox. "It usually works."

And his motto: "Keep on keeping on."

Web posted on Thursday, July 29, 2010

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