Frank Neal Drane
by Tommy Stringer,
Reprinted from the Navarro County
Scroll, Volume XXII, 1977
Printed with permission of the Navarro County Historical Society
The world frequently equates the accumulation of
wealth with greatness. However, two factors should be considered in regard to wealth
and greatness: first, the methods used in acquiring the wealth; and second, the way in
which the wealth was used.
Frank Neal Drane, by his own abilities, foresight,
and diligence amassed a sizable monetary fortune. Every venture which he involved
himself was one which provided a needed and valuable service to the people of Navarro
County. All who knew him were impressed with his sincerity, his honesty, and his
sense of fair play.
Drane also possessed the wisdom and the
sensitivity to see the numerous opportunities which were available to him because of
his wealth to make the world a better place in which to live.
These two traits--diligence and
sensitivity--characterize the life of this outstanding man.
Frank Neal Drane was born on January 14, 1862, at
the family home about seven miles west of Corsicana. His parents, Merritt Drane and
Melvina Todd Neal Drane, had married in Kentucky in 1860, and that same year came to
Texas, settling near Corsicana in a small community which still bears the Drane family
Young Frank was educated in the public schools of
Corsicana. He also spent three years at Trinity University, which was then located
at Tehuancana. (The institution was subsequently moved to Waxahachie and eventually to San
In 1874, Merritt Drane moved his family to
Corsicana where he established a hardware business in the building which currently
houses the Corsicana Community Playhouse. It was here that Frank Drane gained his
first business experience. Known as Drane and Son, the business prospered until
1896, when Merritt died.
In 1885, having established himself in the
business community, Frank Drane married Florence Adelia Bingham, a minister's daughter
from Ohio. Two children would be born to this union, Hugh A. Drane and
Mrs. Drane became quite active active in civic affairs and served for several years
on the Board of Texas Technological College in Lubbock.
In 1896, Drane bought controlling interest in the
City National Bank. He served as President on that institution until 1914, when it
merged with the Corsicana National Bank.
Relieving himself of his banking responsibilities
became a necessity because of increased demands on his time. For in 1901, his keen
foresight had led him to establish the Corsicana Power and Light Company which provided
electric services to the residents and industries of the community. The dual
leadership of these two important business ventures eventually proved to be more than one
man could handle. Although Drane did head both simultaneously for thirteen years.
In 1928, he sold the power company to Texas Power and Light.
But other interests also vied for his time.
Realizing the importance of transportation to the area, Drane was instrumental in the
formation of the Texas Electric Railway Company. This interurban line connected
Corsicana, Dallas, Waco, and immediate points. Drane served as Vice-President and as
a member of the executive committee of that corporation.
In spite of all his business involvements, Drane
still found time to devote to numerous civic functions. He served the citizens of
Corsicana as alderman and also as chairman of the Board of Education. He was
influential in construction of the YMCA building, and he was among those involved in the
establishment of the Public Library, served on the Library Board in its early years.
During World War II, Drane served as chairman of the War Work Board.
A devoutly religious man, Drane, as well as his
wife, devoted much time to church work, providing leadership for several years to Third
Avenue Presbyterian Church.
Drane maintained as interest in farming especially
in dairy cattle. He experimented extensively with cover crops and pasturage, and kept a
prize herd of dairy cattle at his farm which he called Arcady Farms.
Despite all of these accomplishments, Drane still
had an unfulfilled dream. For years, he had planned to establish a foundation to aid
the citizens of Navarro County. This dream became a reality on May 28, 1938, with
the creation of the Navarro Community Foundation, an unincorporated public charitable
trust. The foundation was intended to benefit all -- those in the morning, the
noonday, and the evening of life.
However, Drane was opposed merely to handing out
aid. He was of the opinion that the best way to help those needing help was to show
them how to help themselves. Consequently, most of the grants are awarded on a
He suggested the use of caution, if not taboo, in
doing too large a part for any agency, whether it be old or new. One person's, or
even a few persons', supplying large financial support to an institution or human service
agency is a major cause of dry rot within that agency in his opinion. He frequently
remarked that there was no such thing as something for nothing, and his intention was not
for the foundation to merely be a give-away program.
Not wishing to bind the foundation by mandate to
specific projects, the trustees outlined six general areas or purposes eligible to receive
funds. The first purpose of the foundation is to promote and extend religion.
Although no forms of particular political, social, or religious philosophy is to be
sponsored by the foundation, funds have been made available to various religious
organizations to aid in building programs. The Child Evangelism Fellowship, a
non-denominational Bible class for children, also receives financial aid from the Drane
A second purpose of the Foundation is the
promotion of education. Numerous schools throughout Navarro County have benefited
from grants which have been used for buildings, scholarships, playground equipment, and
athletic equipment. The Frank Neal Drane Hall of Science on the campus of Navarro
College in Corsicana stands as a deserving memorial to Drane's generosity to the field of
The foundation has designated the alleviation of
human suffering and the prevention and control of disease as a third area deserving of
help from the foundation. Consequently, substantial amounts have been contributed to
the Navarro County Hospital for building purposes as well as for the purchase of medical
equipment. The Kerens Hospital Fund also was a recipient of foundation funds, as
have been various medical research programs such as the March of Dimes, the American
Cancer Society, and the Heart and Lung Association.
Drane's civic-mindedness prompted him to designate
as a fourth purpose for the distribution of foundation funds the acquisition,
construction, maintenance, and beautification of public buildings, grounds, and/or works.
Numerous projects under this heading have been aided by the foundation, such as the
Corsicana Public Library, City Government Building, Community Park, public swimming pools,
Community Centers, child care centers, YMCA
building, and the Twilight Home for the
The fifth purpose of the Navarro Foundation was to
provide relief of the worthy poor and indigent. This help is to be distributed
through existing agencies which are operated for that purpose. Organizations such as
the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and Family Services have all received funding to aid
those who are in need.
Any scientific endeavors designed and carried on
solely to contribute to the betterment of mankind is the sixth area eligible to receive
aid from the Navarro Foundation. The Frank Neal Drane Hall of Science at Navarro College
has been a valuable training ground for students as they prepared themselves for careers
in various scientific fields.
It would be impossible to enumerate all the
philanthropic contributions which Frank Drane has made. However, from its inception
in 1938, through 1976, the Drane Foundation has donated some $4 million to various
agencies, organizations, and institutions in an attempt to improve living conditions and
solve some of the problems which confront society.
On December 1, 1938, Drane died at his home at
Arcady Farms in Corsicana at the age of seventy-six. He is buried in the family
mausoleum at Oakwood Cemetery in
Corsicana [Section D. Row 1].
Frank Neal Drane was a man of vision and
compassion. His vision brought him prominence in the business world. At the
same time he was impressed with the opportunities which his prominence afforded him.
These opportunities were not merely self-serving interests but rather they were
opportunities to lend a helping hand to his fellow man. His leadership in the
community during his lifetime made life easier for the citizens of Navarro County, and his
continuing gifts through the Drane Foundation still are benefiting the community. Truly, Navarro County is a better place because of her native son, Frank Neal Drane.
FRANK N. DRANE
JAN. 14, 1862
DEC 1, 1938
Corsicana, Navarro Co., Texas
Frank Neal Drane
Daily Oklahoman, 2 December, 1938
OWN LIFE IS TAKEN BY PHILANTHROPIST
Frank Neal Drane Is Found Dead in Workshop Corsicana, Texas, Dec. 1 - A
verdict of "self-destruction" was returned Thursday in death of Frank Neal
Drane, 78-year-old philanthropist found with his throat gashed near a power buzz
saw. His body was found Thursday morning in his workshop. Justice of the Peace
A. E. Foster said the electric saw apparently had been switched off after Drane
fell against it.
- Obituary submitted by Don Brownlee
Capitalist Killed by Buzz-Saw
CORSICANA, Tex., Dec 1 - Frank Neal
Drane, 76, capitalist and philanthropist, was found dead today, his throat
slashed, near a buzz-saw. A. E. Foster, justice of the peace, gave a
verdict of suicide. - Dec 2, 1938