Longtime Cuero community leader enjoys serving Victoria College

Bill 3 top pick Bill Blackwell is still active in the operations of his ranches in DeWitt and Karnes counties.

Not much has happened in Cuero the past 50 years or so without Bill Blackwell being a part of it.

The retired banker has been involved with just about every civic group in town. Blackwell has served with numerous organizations including the Chisholm Trail Heritage Museum, Cuero Community Foundation (formerly Cuero Industrial Foundation), Cuero Gobbler Booster Club, Cuero ISD Education Foundation, Cuero Rotary Club, Cuero Young Farmers, Grace Episcopal Church, Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority and the Guadalupe-Blanco River Trust. He was also a founding member of the Cuero Turkeyfest Organization and participated as a member of the famed Ruby Begonia Racing Team in 1976 and 1977.

"I haven't really thought about some of those things I have been a part of through the years," Blackwell said in his gravelly, deep voice. 

Blackwell spent the rest of his time in banking, ranching, and hunting. Now retired, Blackwell remains active in the community and still oversees the operation of the W. A. Blackwell Ranches, LLC in DeWitt and Karnes counties.

"My job is relatively easy as I have a lot of really good people working for me," Blackwell said of overseeing his ranches. "Every now and then I do more than I should - thinking I'm 40 or 50 again when we work cattle or sell calves. I don't ride horseback anymore, most of my cowboying these days is done from a Kawasaki Mule."

Blackwell graduated with a BBA degree from the University of Texas at Austin, but he credits two classes he took at Victoria College during the summer of 1961 for setting the stage for the rest of his academic career.

"I went straight to Victoria College out of high school and took a history and English class," Blackwell said. "I was wanting to get a feel for college life and see the difference in studying for high school exams and college exams. Those two classes gave me a good push to go to Austin."

Blackwell began his career as office manager for the Martin O’Connor Cattle Company in Victoria. In 1971, he began his banking career as a director and officer of Farmers State Bank & Trust Company in Cuero. He was named bank president in 1983.  Blackwell continued to serve as president as the independent bank became Victoria Bank & Trust-Cuero. Later, the ownership changed to Norwest Bank-Cuero and then finally Wells Fargo Bank-Cuero.

During his banking career, he served as chairman of the board of the Texas Bankers Association Service Company, and was a member of the American Bankers Association Community Bankers Council and the Board of Directors of the Texas Bankers Association.

Blackwell retired in 2007 to concentrate on his ranches and numerous civic duties, which includes serving as a director and former president of the Victoria College Foundation.

"Victoria College has made a huge impact on Cuero and DeWitt County, and that's why I wanted to be on the VC Foundation," Blackwell said. "It's a great opportunity for me to help raise funds to give scholarships to people who couldn't afford to go to college without them."

Blackwell said he has seen Victoria College's workforce training fill a void in DeWitt County, especially after the closing of Cuero's Mount Vernon Mills Plant in 2016.

"Victoria College's truck driving, nursing, welding, electrical, plumbing and other programs have been really good for this community," Blackwell said. "It's great that people can find out what training they need to get a job, and go just down the road from here and get it."

At the age of 75, Blackwell said he has no plans of slowing down anytime soon.

"I think it's great to give back to the community," Blackwell said. "I was lucky enough at the bank for many years be able to be involved in the community. Giving back to the community has always been important to me. I probably need to be a little less involved, but I still enjoy it. So I don't mind doing it."

by Coy Slavik, Communications Specialist, Victoria College