Harvey Wilson, beloved community leader and member of The Peoples Bank founding family, has died.
After his passing on Aug. 20, the bank closed on Aug. 23 during a touching celebration of the financier’s life held at Eatonton First Baptist Church.
“If you need anything, give me a call.” Those are the words Harvey spoke, and that is how he lived.
Serving the bank in several capacities through the years, his invitation to be part of The Peoples Bank family stretched near and far.
Affectionately called “Bootsie,” he became bank president after several years of dedicated service and named to its board of directors.
When Harvey started at The Peoples Bank, he swept the floors.
He also swept the people off their feet with a warm heart and helping hand.
His extended hospitality meant young couples could get started with their own home, businesses could develop throughout the community and families might not go hungry.
A native of Newton County, Harvey married Amelia Jean Adams, of Eatonton, in 1954, and the young couple moved to her hometown in 1956. They had three children, Arthur, Harvey Jr. and Ame.
A longtime friend of The Eatonton Messenger, in 1959 Harvey shared a fish tale with Battle Smith — publisher of the local newspaper.
When Harvey won the spinning reel and rod from a fishing demonstration at Walter-Knight Hardware, he said he was anxious to try out the new equipment so he and his father-in-law, A.F. Adams, went to Gregory’s Lake where Harvey hooked an eight and one-quarter pound bass.
After the young banker put up quite a fight with the big fish and couldn’t get him to shore, Adams stepped in and helped him land the catch.
Anyone would be hard pressed to find anywhere in Putnam County that Harvey hasn’t left an impression.
A proponent of the responsibilities of being a good steward of the land, he was a member of the Piedmont Soil Conservation District and Eatonton Shade Tree Association.
Enlisting the help of Ame, the father and daughter joined other conservationists in planting nearly 200 large hardwood trees and 2,000 small trees throughout the community to help provide noise and pollution abatement.
“Planting trees is something we can do today that will benefit future generations,” Harvey said during the event 25 years ago.
He knew something about benefitting future generations, having made an impact on the lives of nearly every family in Putnam County.
Harvey helped sponsor and volunteer at many events benefiting local organizations, including senior citizens programs, Boy Scouts of America, Putnam General Hospital and the Eatonton-Putnam Library, of which he was a board member.
He served on the steering committee for the annual Putnam County Dairy Festival and literally opened his Washington Avenue home to strangers and friends for tours during the Eatonton-Putnam Historical Society’s Christmas Candlelight Rumble.
He and Amelia also invited a zoo into their backyard. Through the suggestion of their grandson, the Eatonton couple allowed zookeepers to harvest bamboo to feed a couple of giant pandas, Lun-Lun and Yang-Yang, who lived at Zoo Atlanta.
Not only did Harvey work at building relationships in the community, he also worked tirelessly to help build Putnam County’s economy.
He served as a member and chairperson of the industrial development authority at its formation in 1971 and was a member of that authority’s predecessor, the Putnam County Industrial Development Corporation.
As chairman of the Putnam Development Authority, he is credited with coordinating the efforts aimed at luring Haband to Putnam County as well as opening the door for other industry, including Perky Cap, Sara Lee Knit Products and Gro Tec.
His efforts earned him a nomination for the “Volunteer of the Year” award presented by the Georgia Industrial Development Association.
During his tenure on the PDA, in 1971, the authority purchased the South Industrial Park, and the Enterprise Distribution Center was built.
Several years later, he would team up with friendly rival Farmers & Merchants Bank to finance the acquisition of the Enterprise property after its then-owners closed the doors.
Harvey told The Messenger that he had an appreciation for the competitiveness between local banks helping to drive each of them toward making the community better.
“The Farmers & Merchants Bank and The Peoples Bank are very competitive, but when the ox is in the ditch, both banks have united to pull them out,” he said.
The hometown banker’s priority was always to his family, his friends and to the citizens of Putnam County.
Those priorities were evident through the love Harvey spread everywhere he went.
The legacy he left is worth far more than the treasures stored in his bank.