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Thomas Wilcox; Led Crocker Bank's Push Into Southland

July 22, 1993|MYRNA OLIVER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Thomas Robert Wilcox, who headed Crocker National Bank from 1974 to 1981 and directed its expansion into Southern California, has died in New York. He was 76.

Wilcox died of cancer Monday in his home in Dering Harbor in Long Island.

"We're not discovering Southern California," the lanky, 6-foot-8 Wilcox told The Times in 1977, "but we certainly feel there is a lot going on in this part of the state, and we want to be a part of it."

At that time, he oversaw the opening of 185 Crocker branches in Southern California--compared to 175 in the northern part of the state. He also sent senior executives of the San Francisco-based bank, which was founded in 1870, to Los Angeles, and he spent part of his own time in an office here.

"Much of our future lies south of the Tehachapis," he told stockholders in 1977.

Wilcox also sought to make the bank a major player in global markets, lending aggressively across the United States and in the Third World to meet his goal of 15% annual growth of assets.

But the period of his stewardship was not a good one for banks, and the historically provincial Crocker failed to fulfill Wilcox's plans.

Crocker National Bank was bought by London-based Midland Bank Ltd. in 1980 and sold, obliterating its name, to archrival Wells Fargo Bank in 1986. Wilcox had retired in 1981.

Born in Manhattan to Irish immigrant parents, Wilcox began his career in 1934 as a page at First National City Bank in New York. He spent 37 years at that institution, now called Citibank, moving up as an assistant cashier, a vice president, an executive vice president and ultimately vice chairman.

In the meantime he earned a degree in economics at Princeton and serve in the Navy in World War II.

Wilcox is survived by his wife of 50 years, Mary Jane; three sons, Thomas R. Wilcox Jr. of Essex, Conn., M. Kirby Wilcox of El Cerritos and Andrew M. Wilcox of San Rafael; two brothers, and four grandsons.

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