Many of the amenities that make today’s Mineola a special place to live can trace their origins and continued existence to a native of Leitchfield, Ky., born in 1871.
That would be Harry W. Meredith, who, it is believed, arrived in Mineola around 1907. How and why he settled in Mineola, nobody really knows for sure, according to Lou Wagner, president of the Meredith Foundation. What is known is that since the Meredith Foundation’s inception in 1958, it has given away more than $31.92 million in grants to non-profits within the Mineola Independent School District.
Meredith, an astute businessman, organized Mineola State Bank on North Johnson Street, which consolidated with Mineola First National Bank in 1932.
Wagner’s late father, Robert Hooks, owned the Select Theater in downtown Mineola, and the two men enjoyed one another’s company. “Mr. Meredith and my daddy were real good friends,” said Wagner.
Wagner said she has fond memories of Meredith.
“He was a very dapper man. I can remember him walking down the street to the bank. He took Jiggs, his dog, with him,” she recalled.
Wagner also remembered Harry’s wife, Dolly, who would fix her hot chocolate and cookies when her father met with Harry at the Meredith’s home at Johnson and Blair streets.
Knowing that Meredith had given money to the Methodist Home in Waco, Hooks and several other friends “all kept trying to get him to leave money to Mineola,” Wagner recalled.
After the death of his third wife, Meredith decided to heed his friends’ request. He met with four associates and discussed his idea for a foundation. The Meredith Foundation’s first board consisted of Meredith as chairman, James Judge, Ross Lukenbill, Joe H. Sharp and Leonard Butler. His first contribution to Mineola was $50,000 for a new library.
“It was the only thing Mr. Meredith ever saw completed,” said Wagner.
At the groundbreaking for the Mineola Memorial Library in 1959, he said: “I’m giving this building to pay Mineola back for all it has done for me. Mineola has been good to me, and what I have accumulated has come from right here in Mineola. I want to do this for the people of Mineola.”
Meredith died on June 11, 1962, but not before he made sure a large portion of his wealth would go to the Meredith Foundation, stipulating that proceeds would benefit the people of Mineola.
Today, the Meredith Foundation operates under the same set of rules established by Harry Meredith all those years ago. Today’s board is composed of Wagner, Bob Smith, Freda Madsen, Jerry Phillips and Joe Williams.