Rest in Peace Leo Seal (Updated)

I mentioned last night he needed prayers (H/T Steve). Today he has been called home. Business people like Uncle Leo are born, not made and are a very rare breed. Though he slowed down a bit in his later years his passing leaves a huge void in the Gulf Coast business community.

Update

Hancock Bank has issued a press release on the passing of Leo Seal:

An icon of Gulf South banking is gone, according to an announcement by Hancock Holding Company (Nasdaq:HBHC) senior executives. However, his legacy — an extraordinary six decades of visionary business, economic, civic, and philanthropic leadership — continues to sustain the financial services company that he led for almost three-fourths of his remarkable career.

Leo W. Seal, Jr., succeeded his father as president of Gulfport-based Hancock Bank in 1963 and continued to serve as president of Hancock Holding Company, parent company of Hancock Bank, until his death last night following an extended illness. He was 84.

“Ensuring value for Hancock Bank’s shareholders and customers and facilitating opportunities for the Gulf South remained foremost in Leo Seal’s every business decision during the past 60 years. His guidance perpetuated a 109-year-old promise that has carried Hancock Bank safely through a century of wars, recessions, natural disasters, and economic uncertainty. Likewise, he insisted on a management succession strategy that preserves Hancock as one of America’s strongest banks. His death is a tremendous loss to all of us. But his foresight will preserve that founding pledge and support us in carrying on Hancock’s trademark strength and stability,” said Hancock Holding Company Chairman George A. Schloegel, who rose from 16-year-old Hancock Bank mailroom runner to CEO under Seal’s 50-year tutelage.

Seal, a native and lifelong resident of Bay St. Louis, began his Hancock Bank career in 1947 as a runner and worked in every department of the bank. An imposing six-feet-two-inches tall, Seal was as giant of heart as he was in stature and achievement. His shrewd, conservative business acumen belied a humble, generous spirit that benefited numerous organizations and individuals — in many instances, anonymously — throughout his beloved South Mississippi and Hancock County. Seal was a passionate and active champion for well-planned economic development and held principal positions in every major Mississippi banking and economic development association. The former Mississippi State University Alumnus of the Year and World War II veteran was a man of great faith, a patriot, and an avid Bulldog who treasured his family, held great pride for his U.S. Army service, and reveled in college spirit reminiscent of his days as a star lineman for his alma mater.

“Leo Seal loved his God, his family, his country, his company, and his university. His service preserved our freedom. His mentorship inspired hundreds of young bankers. His benevolence made life easier and better for countless citizens. He funded education for literally hundreds of young Mississippians, most of whom never knew who their benefactor was. He helped assure Hancock’s financial soundness during the most challenging periods and still leads us in upholding that strength and stability. Mississippi has lost a tremendous asset, but his core values live on through the many people whom he touched through the years,” said Hancock Holding Company Chief Executive Officer John M. Hairston, a fellow MSU graduate and Seal mentoree.

“It was a rare gift to have learned from an individual who had incredible long-term vision and heartfelt concern for his community. We were, indeed, privileged to share life experiences with such a man,” Hairston added.

Carl J. Chaney, Hancock Holding Company CEO, helped expand Hancock’s Gulf South footprint under Seal’s wise direction. Seal was a sought-after consultant for economic development along the I-10 corridor from south central Louisiana to north Florida. His keen historical perspective, astute business know-how, and perceptive, often candid, observations proved invaluable to the success of local, state, and regional economic development.

“From leading conversion of the Port of Gulfport to state ownership, to helping bring Stennis Space Center to Hancock County and chairing the Infinity project, to protecting and growing the Bank’s shareholder value, Leo Seal’s accomplishments attest to his commitment to the hometowns, people, and company he loved so dearly. He helped rebuild the Coast from three major hurricanes. During 60 years of economic change, he helped Hancock succeed in growing from a $14 million bank with three branches in two Mississippi counties to a $7 billion financial services leader with 164 locations in four states. During Leo’s tenure, a shareholder who purchased 100 shares of Hancock stock for $3,500 in 1965 could watch the value of those shares increase to nearly $1 million today,” Chaney said.

Seal was preceded in death by his father, Leo W. Seal, Sr., and his mother, Rebecca Baxter Seal. His immediate survivors include his wife, Susie Pringle Seal; twin sons, Leo, III, and Lee; stepdaughter Maury Rendeiro; stepson Gilbert Walker; grandchildren Leo W. Seal, IV, and Lucy Seal; and sister, Virginia Seal Wagner.

Funeral arrangements in Bay St. Louis are pending. Additional information regarding the location and time of services is forthcoming.

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