Oscar Wells was the first leader of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. He was appointed governor in October 16, 1914, and served in that role until February 24, 1915.
Wells was born in a “lopsided Missouri log cabin” in 1876. He farmed, attended an “obscure college,” and worked in his uncle’s bank. At the age of thirty-four, he moved from Carthage, Missouri, to Fort Worth, Texas. Wells served as cashier of the Fort Worth National Bank, cashier of the Commercial National Bank of Houston, vice president of the Union National Bank of Houston, and vice president of First National Bank of Houston.
In 1914, Wells became the first governor of the Dallas Fed and chairman of its Executive Committee during the Reserve Bank’s first board of directors meeting. Although Wells served in that capacity only a short time, he was instrumental in the successful beginning operations of the Dallas Fed.
Four days after taking office, Wells, along with the newly appointed directors, traveled to Washington, DC, to meet with representatives from the eleven other Reserve Banks and the Federal Reserve Board for the purpose of setting the date for the opening of the Reserve Banks. Wells and the Dallas directors successfully advocated for an early opening of the Reserve Banks because it would establish public confidence. As an outgrowth of the Washington meeting, the Federal Reserve Board announced that all Reserve Banks would open for business on November 16, 1914, exactly one month after the first Dallas board meeting.
On the day the Dallas Fed opened, a meeting of the board of directors was held when Wells submitted two reports, one as governor of the Reserve Bank and the other as chairman of the Executive Committee. This pattern was followed for several years.
After four months in office, Wells resigned from the governorship in 1915. After leaving the Dallas Fed, Wells became president of the First National Bank of Birmingham, Alabama, where he served in this capacity for fifteen years before he resigned to become the chairman of the board.
While in Birmingham, he served as president of the Jefferson County Courthouse Commission and chaired the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce committee. He also was architect of the Department of Public Welfare and presided over it during the depression years of the 1930s. His service extended to many other organizations and programs, including an appointment by President Calvin Coolidge as financial adviser to the government of Cuba and becoming president of the American Bankers Association in 1925.
Built in his name, the Birmingham Museum of Art currently houses the Oscar Wells Memorial Building. Wells passed away in 1953.
Written by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. See disclaimer.