The National Bank of Commerce, located in the O'Brien Building at 5th and Polk

In 1917, Will O'Brien purchased the National Bank of Commerce from a man named Sullenberger, when he moved from Hereford to Amarillo.  In 1922, it was merged with City National Bank and T.E. (Tom) Durham was elected president with Will O'Brien chairman of the board.  The bank remained in the O'Brien Building at 5th and Polk.  Shortly thereafter, O'Brien sold the bank to Durham on terms.   

In May of 1928, Durham resigned as president.  The newspaper gave ill health as the reason.  In order to protect the depositors who had come to the bank because of O'Brien, he took back the stock and again became president.  Before he could get the bank back into shape, the depression hit and the bank was effectively broke by 1931.  

In 1929, the National Bank of Commerce, like many other banks, issued US currency signed by Will O'Brien as president and Cecil as cashier.

When the National Bank of Commerce experienced a run on August 8, 1931, Will O'Brien worked out an agreement with Mr. Fuqua of the First National Bank of Amarillo, and the other banks, under which the Amarillo banks would lend O'Brien money to pay the Depositors.  He personally borrowed this money so the depositors in his bank would not lose money.  The other banks agreed to do so in order to prevent runs on all of the Amarillo banks.

Gene Howe, publisher of the Amarillo paper wrote of the liquidation of the bank in his "Tactless Texan" column on August 10,

The passing of the National Bank of Commerce is something to be regretted, but there is something might fine and splendid about the way it was done.  It would have been mighty easy for certain folks to have got from under and have left it to sink, but instead of doing this they stood by the ship. 

Howe praised O'Brien and the other officers of the bank, further saying, 

They dug down deep into their socks and put up their personal and private collateral so that their friends and thus customers and the public in general would not suffer any loss.  It's a pretty good idea to do business with men you know to be honest and honorable and square shooters.

Howe attributed the guarantee to three of the officers, but only O'Brien guaranteed the note.  

In negotiating collateral for the loan to O'Brien, the other three Amarillo banks took all of the loans.  However, they required more collateral from O'Brien as they gave some of the National Bank of Commerce's loans no value.  In putting up everything he had as additional collateral, O'Brien told the bankers that any of the collections from the valueless loans would not be applied against his loan with the banks.   Will's son Cecil collected loans for several years and paid the collections on the notes to the other banks.  The income from the collection of the "valueless" loans was what the O'Briens used for living and operating expenses.

When several of the larger "worthless loans" turned out to be worth something, the three Amarillo banks changed their mind and asked that the income from them be paid on the note.  Will O'Brien felt they were going back on their word.  Their relationship deteriorated and the banks threatened to foreclose on the loan, which had been paid down to something over $100,000--a fraction of the original amount.  The depression worsened and the three banks were in desperate need of liquidity.  They called O'Brien in and told him, We need the money and we need it now.  We are going to have to foreclose on your oil properties and other assets."  He owed the banks something over $100,000, which was a great deal of money.

O'Brien negotiated a reduced payment with them, but said, "If I pay you off, the uncollected notes belong to me."   They would not agree to this, wanting the payoff and the uncollected notes. 

Will O'Brien called his friend and business associate Joe Perkins, from Wichita Falls, and Perkins bought all of O'Brien's notes from the banks at a discounted price.  O'Brien had to mortgage everything he and his children owned to guarantee the loan.  Perkins gave O'Brien eighteen months to pay the note off and O'Brien was able to do it.

An interesting aside is that Exie O'Brien felt great anguish about the run on the bank because the day before the run she had told Mrs. Mathis, who lived across the street, that Will was having some financial problems.  She always felt that Mrs. Mathis had gossiped around and in that way the run was started.