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
NEAL DRANE NATIVE OF NAVARRO COUNTY, FOUND DEAD
RECENTLY ESTABLISHED NAVARRO COMMUNITY FOUNDATION OF $800,000
Frank Neal Drane, 76, years of age, capitalist, philanthropist, was
found dead at Arcady Farm, his home, about 6:30 o’clock Thursday
morning. An electrically-driven saw was reported to have slashed his
throat, Judge A. E. Foster, justice of the peace, conducted an inquest
and returned a verdict of “self-destruction.” He had been dead for some
time when his body was discovered.
Funeral services will be held from the Third Avenue Presbyterian church
of which Mr. Drane, had been a long-time member. Saturday morning at 11
o’clock. Burial will be made in
Oakwood cemetery beside
his late wife, it will was announced. The rites will be conducted by
Rev. Gordon MacInnes, pastor of the church.
Surviving are a son, Hugh A. Drane, Dallas; a grandson, Dr. Hugh Drane,
Cleveland, Ohio; a brother, Merritt Drane, Fort Worth, and other
Pallbearers will be R. L. Wheelock, A. G. Elliott, R. L. Hamilton, J. O.
Burke, E. H. Newton, Ben Blackmon, W. T. McKee, Ralph Stell, C. L.
Jester, R. L. Davis, T. L. Tyson, E. W. Robinson, Sydney Marks, and Jack
Corley Funeral Home is in charge of the arrangements.
In the articles establishing the Navarro Community Foundation of
$800,000, Mr. Drane provide that $5,000 will go to Third Avenue
Presbyterian church of Corsicana in $500 payments for ten years and a
similar amount to Trinity University in Waxahachie, from the $360,000
reserved from his estate. The residue of the reserved portion of the
estate is to go to the foundation on the death of Mr. Drane.
At 76 and after a lifetime of activity in banking, electric power
development and betterment of agriculture, Frank Neal Drane saw his
great philanthropy the Navarro County Community Foundation—“a
25-year-old dream”—take form. Mr. Drane pledged an $800,000 fortune to
mold the well being of those in a community that had been his home since
Under articles of association, the foundation was created for promoting
the well-being of mankind, primarily in Navarro county and elsewhere in
Texas, only upon the initiation and unanimous action of its trustees. No
forms of philosophy—political, social, or religious—would be sponsored
by the foundation.
Native of County.
Mr. Drane, born in Navarro county 10 miles from Corsicana, Jan. 14,
1862, served his business apprenticeship in his father’s merchandise
business, but in 1896 he bought control of the City National Bank of
Corsicana and was its president until 1914 when it was merged with the
Corsicana National Bank.
With keen foresight he realized the potentialities of electric power and
in 1901 he organized the Corsicana Power and Light Company, which
operated under his management until he sold his interest in 1928. He was
one of the founders of the Texas Electric Railway, which operated
extensive railways in Central Texas, and for many years was vice
president and member of the executive committee of that corporation.
Meanwhile, his dreams of a great philanthropy were crystallizing. He
emphasized, however, when he gave the trustees of the foundation a deed
of conveyance to his separate estate, with some $360,000 reserved until
his death that he was no “Santa Claus emptying the cornucopia of
To Aid All.
The foundation was for all—in the morning, noonday and evening of
life—those who tug at their own bootstraps. Its aim was the promotion of
religion and education, alleviation of human suffering, provision for
public buildings, assisting the poor and aiding scientific endeavors.
“The best way to help those needing help is to show them how to help
themselves, never forgetting, however, the Good Samaritan aid to
unfortunates,” Mr. Drane said. “Only the utterly unfortunate should have
everything done for them, and then for only periods of time. Benevolence
always should go back to the base of things.”
Mr. Drane, as trustee emeritus during his life, stressed he did not wish
to bind the foundation by mandate to specific projects. He suggested to
the active trustees, however, the founding of a country-wide
parent-teacher-child service group to sponsor a kindergarten for
“This,” he said, “the only means by which rural children may have
guidance in that important plastic age, would be a memorial to my wife,
(She, he said had helped him build a dream that took life in the
establishment of the foundation). I have dreamed of, and hoped for a
country-wide organization of that great and good group, the
Parent-Teacher Association, as a perennial and perpetually self-recrutive,
noble and common objective of two so important groups of society.”
It was his original thought to have Navarro county mothers co-operate,
week or month about in conveying children to school.
“It seems,” he said, “the Parent-Teacher Association might logically,
and successfully foster a country-wide nursing service, including
especially, maternity nursing in the mother’s home at Corsicana. This
service would not be free, but at a gradual scale that would average
cost, or near cost, for mothers unable to avail themselves of existing
The benefactor counselled “caution, if not taboo” of doing a large a
part, “especially as regards financial aid for any agency, new or old.
In my opinion, based upon study and reasoning, for one, or too few, to
finance any, if not most human service agencies is a fruitful cause of
dry rot to the institution. There isn’t any such thing as something for
nothing. Someone is paying for it—perhaps in blood.”
Mr. Drane was educated at the public schools of Corsicana and studied
three years at Trinity University, Waxahachie.
Aside from business interests he was one of the leading agricultural
authorities in Texas, establishing one of the noted model farms of the
state. Arcady, the 200-acre Drane estate near Corsicana, is a
show-place. He was especially known for his study of pasturage and cover
crops. Dairying was one of his hobbies and he owned one of the finest
herds in Texas.
For many years, Mr. Drane was chairman of the board of trustees of
Trinity University and the Frank Drane women’s building there bears his
name in recognition of the services to the school. He also was
instrumental in erection of the Corsicana Young Men’s Christian
Association building. During the World War he was Navarro county
chairman of the war work board. He also served as president of the board
of education and several terms as alderman of Corsicana.
In 1885 Mr. Drane married Florence Adelia Bingham, who died several
years ago. Mrs. Drane was president of the board of regents of the Texas
Technological College, Lubbock.
FUNERAL SERVICES SATURDAY MORNING FOR FRANK N. DRANE
Funeral services for Frank Neal Drane, aged 76 years, life-long resident of
Navarro county, who was found dead at his home, Arcady Farms, northwest of
Corsicana, Thursday, will be held from the Third Avenue Presbyterian church
Saturday morning at 11 o’clock. Interment will be made in
Oakwood cemetery. The rites will
be conducted by Rev. Gordon MacInnes pastor of the church. Mr. Drane was a
prominent member of that congregation.
Earlier this year Mr. Drane founded the Navarro Community Foundation and
provided for his estate, approximately $800,000, to be the first donation to the
Mr. Drane and his late wife constructed Drane Hall at Trinity University a
number of years ago and many other philanthropic and civic movements have
received substantial assistance from the Dranes.
Many financial institutions were sponsored by Mr. Drane, including banks, Texas
Electric Railway, power and agriculture.
Surviving are a son, Hugh A. Drane, Dallas capitalist; a grandson, Dr. Hugh
Drane, Jr., Cleveland, Ohio; a brother, M. A. Drane, Fort Worth, and other
Pallbearers will be R. L. Wheelock, A. G. Elliott, R. L. Hamilton, J. O. Burke,
E. H. Newton, Ben Blackmon, W. T. McKee, Ralph Stell, C. L. Jester, B. L. Davis,
T. L. Tyson, E. W. Robinson, Sydney Marks and Jake Hudson.
Corley Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
Y.M.C.A. Be Closed.
The Y. M. C. A. will be Closed Saturday morning during the funeral services for
Frank N. Drane, Pat Ramsey, general secretary of the Y. M. C. A. has announced.
The Corsicana Daily Sun - Fri., Dec. 2, 1938 - submitted by Diane Richards
FUNERAL SERVICES HELD SATURDAY FOR FRANK NEAL DRANE
Funeral rites for Frank Neal Drane, 76, capitalist and philanthropist, who was
found dead at his home, Arcady Farms, northwest of Corsicana, early Thursday
were held from the Third Avenue Presbyterian church Saturday morning at 11
o’clock. Interment was made in Oakwood cemetery. The rites were conducted by
Rev. Gordon MacInnes, pastor of the church of which Mr. Drane had been a
long-time and prominent member.
Donor and leader in many civic and business enterprises in Corsicana and other
sections. Mr. Drane last May established the Navarro Community Foundation and
provided for his estate of approximately $800,000 to be the first donation to
the foundation. Mr. Drane and his late wife also donated the Drane dormitory at
Trinity University, Waxahachie. He was one of the leaders in the building of the
local Y. M. C. A. and was a banker, utility owner and agriculturist. He was one
of the organizers of the Texas Electric Railway Company.
Surviving are a son, Hugh A. Drane, Dallas capitalist; a grandson, Dr. Hugh
Drane, Jr., Cleveland, Ohio; a brother, M. A. Drane, Fort Worth, and other
Pallbearers were R. L. Wheelock, A. G. Elliott, R. L. Hamilton, J. O. Burke, E.
H. Newton, Ben Blackmon, W. T. McKee, Ralph Stell, C. L. Jester, T. L. Tyson, B.
L. Davis, E. W. Robinson, Sydney Marks, Jake Hudson.
Corley Funeral Home directed the arrangements.