Frank Neal Drane
Navarro County, Texas


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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 name.

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 Antonio.)

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 Dorthy Drane.   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 matching basis.

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 Foundation.

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 education.

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 elderly.

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

Oakwood Cemetery, 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.

Notes:

  • Obituary submitted by Don Brownlee 3/2003

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


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