People of Etowah – Tom Banks


Name: Tom Banks

Where were you born and raised?

“Besides college, I’ve spent my entire life in Gadsden.”

What is your occupation?

“I’m the deputy director of the Gadsden Cultural Arts Foundation, overseeing the Foundation’s programs and projects, including the Hardin Center for Cultural Arts, Imagination Place Children’s Museum, the Etowah Youth Orchestras, and the Gadsden Community School for the Arts.”

What made you decide to work in your field?

“I began as a part-time employee during high school in 1998 and was fortunate to be offered a full-time position after college in 2005. I gladly accepted because I love having the opportunity to participate in something that has a positive impact upon my hometown.”

Tell us about your family and pets.

“I’ve been married to the former Frances Powell of Newnan, Georgia for 11 years. We do not currently have any pets, but we love dogs.”

Describe an average day in your life.

“I’m fortunate to have a job where I get to do something different each day. Most of my time during the day is spent managing projects, planning events, and helping other staff members with their individual programs.”

What school or schools have you attended?

“I’m proud to be a product of Gadsden City Schools and an alumnus of The University of Alabama.”

What do you like to do in your free time?

“My favorite thing to do is to entertain friends, both old and new, in our home. I love large gatherings of friends with great music at a questionably loud volume. I also enjoy hearing live music in small venues and exploring restaurants and dive bars.”

What would you say is your greatest accomplishment?

“I’m very proud of the work that all of us as a staff, volunteers, and donors have been able to do to improve the quality and cultural richness of life in Gadsden through the Gadsden Cultural Arts Foundation.”

Name the one person that has been the most influential in your life. Why?

“My grandfather, also Tom Banks, had the greatest impact upon me during his life and the memory of him continues to do so. He liked to work hard and play hard and truly loved the relationships he had with his friends. He had the ability to make you feel like you were the most important person in the room. He also had a great appreciation for the arts and made sure I was exposed to them. I hope to honor his joie de vivre by emulating it.”

Are you involved in any service organizations?

“I serve on the board of Serendipity Dance Club that raises funds to support the arts and the Santa Claus Society that raises funds and collects toys to assist the Gadsden Fire Department’s Toys from Santa program. I’m also on the board of the Etowah County University of Alabama Alumni Association that supports several endowed scholarships to send local students to The University.” 

What is your favorite thing about this community?

“Gadsden is composed of great people who love their community and support positive programs. I’m also a huge fan of the ranch dressing at Pruett’s. One of their grilled cheese sandwiches with a chicken finger chopped up inside, then dunked in their ranch is a magical thing.”

What is something surprising that many do not know about you? 

“Even though people love to bring it up at parties, I suppose there are some who don’t know that I spent my freshman year at The University as “Big Al,” the costumed mascot for the Crimson Tide. The late Coach Mal Moore banned me from operating University vehicles because of my erratic driving of Big Al’s car, “The Rammer Jammer.” I spent the next three years of college working in the athletic development department. Even though Alabama Football wasn’t as exciting then as it is now, I was able to see first-hand the planning and implementation of Coach Moore’s vision for Crimson Tide Athletics to have the finest facilities in the nation.”

What is your favorite quote?

“I’m a big fan of living life to the fullest, so I’ve always liked Erma Bombeck’s ‘Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the ‘Titanic’ who waved off the dessert cart.’”

What is on your bucket list?

“I’d love to learn French and to go to culinary school.”

What is your hidden talent?   

“I can make a stack of Milo’s hamburgers disappear pretty quickly.”

If a movie were made about your life, who would you want to play you?

“If ‘The Great One’ were still alive, I’d be flattered to be portrayed by Jackie Gleason. I’m a huge fan of his work from Ralph Kramden, to Minnesota Fats, to Sheriff Buford T. Justice.”

What advice would you give yourself as a child?

“I have terrible handwriting, so I wish I’d spent a little more time working on my cursive.”

To nominate someone for the People of Etowah column, e-mail or call 256-547-1049.

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