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Bob Sherman, banker and civic leader, dies at age 85

Bob G. Sherman, who started his business career in the family grocery store and went on to a banking career that helped propel Hendersonville's growth in the 1960s and ‘70s, died Monday in Paducah, Ky. He was 85.

Sherman was born Sept. 1, 1929, to James Dewey Sherman and Zetta Guice Sherman, who ran a grocery store in the two-story brick building that still stands today on Greenville Highway just north of Erkwood Drive.
He graduated from Flat Rock High School and attended the University of Georgia. After serving in the Korean War in the U.S. Navy, Sherman received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Furman University.
As president and chief executive officer of First Federal Savings and Loan Association in Hendersonville, Sherman loaned money to homeowners, contractors and business owners who were building the small mountain community in the boom years after World War II.
“He made loans to people back when a handshake was a contract,” said his wife, Janice. “If they came into the office and Bob told them, Yes this would be approved, he would tell them when to come back and they’d come back and pick up the check. He never backed down on his word."
At a funeral service on Thursday, Sherman’s peers recalled the banker doing business on the basis of mutual trust. He made good on his pledge to loan the money; they made good on their promise to pay it back. A lot of bankers were reluctant to lend money for church buildings. Not Sherman.
“We went down there to Bob’s Creek church one time because they wanted to thank Bob for making the church loan," said Mrs. Sherman, who was married to Bob for 32 years. "They recognized Bob. They said because he was willing to take a chance they were able to build the church and it’s still going today.” The church members recalled that they “were nervous about coming in here and asking for all that money.”
Sherman was active himself in First Baptist Church, serving as chairman of the Board of Deacons. He assured the Bob’s Creek deacons that it would be fine.
“You are coming in here and borrowing on faith and I’m lending on faith,” he said.
It was a simpler time, when hometown bankers made loans to homebuilders and business leaders without layers of out-of-town approvals.

Harold Blythe, a homebuilder during the Sherman's banking career, would take the prospective home buyer to see Sherman at First Federal.

"I never had him to turn one down all time he was there," Blythe said. "I knew his father and mother. Me and Bob were good friends back then. I was building in Brookland Manor, Crooked Creek, there's not many areas in Hendersonville I haven't built in."
A charter member of the Society of Real Estate Appraisers of Henderson County, Sherman also served as director, vice president and treasurer of the Chamber of Commerce and also served on the Board of Directors of Pardee Hospital as treasurer. He won Man of the Year Award for his years of service, business, church and civic activities as well as Lion of the Year Award.

After he left First Federal, Sherman moved to Tallahassee, Fla., where he became an executive in a development company that built a large office building for the state of Florida. He eventually served on the board of nine different companies. But even as he pursued business interests in Florida and Kentucky, he never forgot his hometown.
“We always called him the walking, talking chamber of commerce because wherever he went he was always talking about Hendersonville and promoting Hendersonville,” Mrs. Sherman said.
Because he loved people and business relationships, he really needed no outside hobbies.
“He just enjoyed keeping busy and he always joked that he was born on Labor Day and had been working ever since,” she said. “He was interested in work, that was his hobby.”
He is survived by Janice M. Sherman; two sons and daughters-in-law, Steve M. and Janet Sherman of Chattanooga, TN, and Greg D. and Dawn Sherman of Bozeman, MT; his two grandchildren, Daniel Sherman of East Ridge, TN, and Taylor Sherman of Cleveland, TN; his step-grandchildren; Stephen Gunter and Sarah Gunter, both of Chattanooga, TN; and his sister, Sarah S. Taylor of Hendersonville.
A funeral service was held Thursday in the Thos. Shepherd Church Street Chapel with the Rev. Dr. Greg T. Mathis of Mud Creek Baptist Church officiating. Burial followed in Oakdale Cemetery. Memorial donations may be directed to the American Heart Association, 3535 Pelham Road, Greenville, S.C., 29615.