Leaving A Legacy

by Christy K. Truitt

Bob Dumas of AuburnBank sits behind his desk at the corner of Gay Street and Magnolia Avenue, sunshine streaming from a wall of windows. He discusses teamwork, how to build a product using the strengths of many. How everyone has a job. A duty. A responsibility.


You would think he’s discussing his 40 plus years with AuburnBank, but no. He’s fascinated with his grandson’s participation in the Auburn University robotics competition held in spring 2023.

“It’s amazing what these young people can do. We are so lucky to have a university right down the road that fosters young people’s minds for many things, but especially for the sciences and mathematics,” he says, gazing out the window at Toomer’s Corner capped off by a Samford Hall skyline. Landmarks the bank has touched through the years.

AuburnBank, Auburn University, East Alabama Health and the city proper are lucky to have Bob Dumas, who retired from his position as bank president this year. Although he remains as chairman of the Board of Directors, Dumas is looking forward to more time with his grandchildren, his golf game and maybe a beach trip every now and then with Martha, his wife of more than 48 years. “Then again, we like just staying here (in Auburn),” says Dumas.

Dumas is originally from Auburn. His father was a professor of Engineering at Alabama Polytechnic Institute, and Martha’s father was a professor of Mathematics. Upon graduation, Dumas started with the Bank of East Alabama in 1976, but less than 10 years later, AuburnBank (then Auburn National Bank) came calling. Board members E.L. Spencer and Anne May hired Dumas as a commercial and consumer lender. “It was the best decision career-wise and personally. To come to work every day for a hometown bank with the interest of local people, well, it doesn’t get any better than that,” says Dumas.

For more than 100 years, AuburnBank has maintained a hometown philosophy that weathered the changing landscape of East Alabama – both literally and figuratively. From its founding in 1907 across from Toomer’s Corner, the bank supported a population of some 1,500 citizens and a struggling Alabama Polytechnic Institute a block away. The company carried farm loans during the agricultural crisis of the 1920s and refused to call mortgages during The Great Depression. The bank, the town and API shouldered the seemingly endless finan- cial crisis together.

The rest of the century saw growth through wars, technological advancement and a multiplying population. One change did not occur – the hometown feeling of AuburnBank and the philosophy of doing business based on personal relationships. When banks began to merge and companies changed names as often as clothes, AuburnBank stayed the same. It remained the only locally owned holding company to survive the century as the home office moved down the street from Toomer’s Corner.

Leaders guided the bank through the Kopper Kettle explosion of 1979 where the corner of Gay Street and Magnolia Avenue literally blew sky high. The bank still opened for business the next day, albeit a little late, with plastic tarp over the teller stations. A mortgage company was created, and an investment division. Lending divided into consumer and commercial avenues. The bank installed Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), telephone banking and eventually carved an online presence on the world wide web. But despite all the technological advances, one thing remained the same.

“We answer our phones. We did it then. We do it now,” says Dumas.

Those phones now ring in a brand-new office building located on the same corner of Magnolia and Gay. The expansive building opened June 13, 2022, and houses more than 90,000 square feet among four floors There is 5,000 square feet of retail space at street level with such offerings as Bitty and Beau’s Coffee Shop which opened Aug. 2022. AuburnBank Mortgage occupies the first floor while the second and third floors are leased for professional spaces. The bank occupies the fourth floor with operations such as credit analysis, compliance, IT, deposit and loan operations, among other departments.

The top floor also includes a retired bank president who may or may not see his office daily. “I want to stay active where I can help, whether that’s at the bank, at the university (Dumas sits on the Auburn University Board of Trustees), with my work at East Alabama Health or other places I volunteer,” says Dumas. “I hope AuburnBank’s investment in the downtown area will encourage other investors and commercial businesses to stay downtown. And that we always remember, when we invest in Auburn, we invest in people.”

One investment Dumas has made has been in the newly promoted president and CEO of AuburnBank, David Hedges. “It would require volumes to detail how Mr. Dumas’s leadership has influenced me, but what I admire most is his ability to put others before himself. It’s no coincidence that Mr. Dumas’s legacy is in keeping with the same philosophy the bank’s founders instilled over 116 years ago,” says Hedges.

When asked what Dumas would tell a younger version of himself, entering into the AuburnBank doors for the first time, Dumas leans back in his chair and stares down Magnolia at Toomer’s Corner, perhaps thinking of how long it took to travel down the street in a proverbial sense – to relocate from 100 N College to 100 N Gay and all that occurred along the way.

“In order to find a company like AuburnBank, a young person needs to take a little more time. Take a step back and evaluate their life 10-20 years from now and not just in the moment. Have a vision of where they want to live, what kind of impact they’d like to make. Try to find people with the same vision and then, go to work,” says Dumas.

Hedges also sees the new AuburnBank Center as the driver for further economic development for the city and downtown merchants. But in keeping with the Dumas legacy, Hedges is committed to the same friendly, hometown service, just in a state-of-the-art building with ample parking in the Burton Street parking deck. “This building allows us to better serve our customers, provide a more efficient and comfortable work environment for our employees, and accommodate the bank’s future growth,” says Hedges. Dumas and the board of directors are confident that the future of AuburnBank is in great hands with Hedges’ leadership.