As the passing of Leo Seal dominates the news today I was reminded of a recent comment left by my friend Steve in reference to Uncle Leo and the old fashioned way Hancock Bank did business in the process generating customer goodwill that will endure for a long time:
….they did more than what is in the article. Uncle Leo got them to goto the emergency operations center and hand out money to people. Nobody had ID’s or any way to prove who they were. The ENTIRE town was flooded. Just sign your name and any info you have and here is your money. NOBODY turned down for ANY reason. You see Uncle Leo gets it. They came with money in the trunks of their cars. Big money. But no security guards or guns etc. They knew us and trusted us. They made us feel like human beings.
Such was indeed the measure of the man and his bank. Uncle Leo’s generosity did not escape the editorial board at the Sun Herald either as today’s editorial makes clear:
Generations of Mississippians benefited from the life of Leo W. Seal Jr.
Generations of Mississippians yet unborn will benefit from his legacy.
Seal, a native and lifelong resident of Bay St. Louis, died Tuesday at the age of 84. His achievements may never be fully itemized.
He was a benevolent banker whose reputation towers above this current period of greed and bankruptcy and bailouts.
While recognized and greatly admired for his generosity, his philanthropy was often performed anonymously.
• “He funded education for literally hundreds of young Mississippians, most of whom never knew who their benefactor was,” said Hancock Holding Co. CEO John M. Hairston.
• “He never sought gratitude and preferred to do things quietly, like sending an unsolicited $100,000 check to Harrison County Library system after Hurricane Katrina, which was never made public,” said George Thatcher, a friend and fellow banker from Gulfport.
What he did do in the public spotlight was help guide Hancock Bank from a $14 million operation with three branches in two Mississippi counties to a $7 billion financial services institution with 164 locations in four states.
Nor was there anything shy about his devotion to his alma mater, Mississippi State University, or his appreciation of his fellow veterans of World War II.
In so many ways, we have lost a champion who gave us so much to celebrate and cherish.
“His best attribute was trying to make the Coast a better place,” said Roland Weeks, retired Sun Herald publisher who worked with Seal on many committees and boards. “Leo was enlightened and led us in directions that served everyone, as opposed to a few. Leo was a man of the Coast, back when cities were protecting their own turf. Leo saw the need for togetherness and regional thinking in the public and private sectors.”
Today’s Sun Herald is packed with such praise. And there will doubtless be more in the days ahead.
As we acknowledge his life, we extend our deepest sympathy to his family and loved ones for their loss.