Celebrating the Life of a Local Leader
One week ago, Mike Banks and Georgia Mountain Food Bank Executive Director Kay Blackstock were already preparing for the 2014 Empty Bowl Lunch for the nonprofit.
“Mike was the chair of the marketing committee this past year,” Blackstock said. “He (oversaw) Empty Bowl in 2013, and it was our biggest by far in the six years that we’ve had it. But ... it was Mike’s idea to have guest ladlers at the event.”
One of those was a friend of Banks, former pitcher for the Atlanta Braves Phil Niekro, who imprinted his handprints in one of the bowls to auction off. The recipient donated the bowl back to the organization as a way to help raise money for next year.
“Mike, just being Mike, said let’s take (the bowl) to (Niekro) and get your picture and stuff with him,” Blackstock recalled. “So on Dec. 30, Mike came and picked me up at the food bank and we went to Phil’s house, and Mike took all the pictures.”
With those events being so recent, Blackstock said she was shocked to learn Banks passed away in his home Monday, following an extended illness. He was 67.
Banks is survived by his wife, Willia, his two children Joy and Bob, his mother Charlotte Banks and two brothers, Rod and JP.
“He was everybody’s friend,” Bob said about his father. “He would do anything for anybody. I mean, he would help anybody.”
A 1964 Gainesville High School graduate, Banks was the founder and member of the executive committee of the John Jarrard Foundation, a founding board member of the North Georgia Community Foundation, an active member of the Kiwanis Club, former treasurer and board member of the Edmondson-Telford Center for Children, a past member of the executive committee of United Way of Hall County and the past chairman of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce.
Sissy Lawson was a classmate of Banks; they were also working together in planning their upcoming 50th high school reunion later this year.
“He was a good student,” she remembered from their days at Gainesville High. “He always had a smile. Everybody just looked up to him. He didn’t know a stranger, and he always had a smile.
“Everybody appreciated his kindness ... he was so nice to everyone. He will be missed. He was one of my favorite folks. I always think of him with that smile.”
Gainesville businessman Philip Wilheit said Banks will be missed personally but also by the community “because he did so much good for us.”
“He was a dear friend and neighbor,” Wilheit said. “I worked on so many charitable projects with him, and he was the heartbeat of several of them.”
Most recently, Banks worked at the University of North Georgia, where he was the development officer at the Mike Cottrell College of Business. He had been at that post since 2010.
"Mike worked tirelessly to support the programs and services provided by this school," Dean Donna Mayo said. "He was so vital to all aspects of our college.
"On a personal note, I will remember him as a person who always sought to do good. He always listened to what people said and was willing to help find solutions to problems they brought to him."
Banks’ career in Gainesville really began at Brenau University, where he was vice president for development from 1969 through 1985. Banks then worked at the First National Bank of Gainesville until 1997, and then as senior vice president at Gainesville Bank & Trust until 2008.
“He was one of the most professional marketers of financial services that I ever worked with in all of my banking career,” Richard Hunt said. Hunt was CEO of the bank while Banks worked there. “He knew how to look out for the best interest of the client, and how to best determine where their needs were.”
Many in the community also remember him as the counterpart to Phil Jackson, when the two narrated Gainesville High football games for nearly 20 years, up until 1989.
“Mike was very outgoing and well-spoken,” Jackson said about his friend. “He liked to keep up with things, everything that was going on. He was a good sports fan.”
Banks had recently interviewed Jackson for an online broadcast, which Jackson said he liked to do.
“He was sort of a dedicated newsman,” Jackson added. “He liked to always bring up something, some outstanding athlete or something from the past. He was just a good, outgoing, interesting fellow.”
“He loved watching the football games,” Bob Banks said about his father, who was also a University of Georgia graduate. He enjoyed quail hunting in his spare time, as well.
The family will receive friends from 6-8 p.m. Thursday at Memorial Park North Riverside Chapel, 989 Riverside Drive, Gainesville. Funeral services are 11 a.m. Friday at First Baptist Church in Gainesville.