Happy 160th Birthday, First Horizon Bank. You’ve got lots to celebrate.  

“March 25, 1864,” said Richard Shaffer, regional president. “Our documents go back to 1864.” 

It was Memphis, 1864. The US government approved bank charters for First National Bank of Memphis. As the bank’s footprint grew, it became First Tennessee. In 1976, the former Hamilton National Bank was purchased in Chattanooga and overnight became First Tennessee in one of Chattanooga’s oldest downtown buildings.  

“It was Chattanooga’s third skyscraper,” said Shaffer.  

As First Tennessee stretched into 12 southeastern states, the bank became First Horizon.  

“We have survived pandemics, plural. Two world wars. Depressions, the yellow fever epidemic. We’ve made it through a lot of tribulations,” Shaffer said. “We are very thankful.” 

Thankful, indeed. Ask him about First Horizon’s first 160 years and Shaffer doesn’t speak about banking. At least, not traditional banking. Instead, Shaffer speaks about something much bigger. 

“Giving,” he said. “A culture and foundation of giving.” 

To celebrate its 160th birthday, First Horizon is giving away, well, quite a lot. 

Earlier this spring, all bank associates were given gift cards with simple instructions: give them away. Make someone’s day.  

“You can buy someone’s coffee. You can buy someone’s gas,” said Shaffer. “Doing anything nice for anybody.”  

It’s called the First Horizon Random Acts of Kindness project. All bank managers were mailed $25 gift cards, encouraged to freely give them away.  

Sheffer spent his gift card on school supplies for a nearby kindergarten class. His colleague Jay Dale, bank president, bought donuts and coffee for hospital nurses.  


“It’s better to give than receive,” Shaffer said. “Giving is a lot of fun … it gives you purpose, and we all want purpose in our lives.” 

The bank also ordered 325 boxes of chocolate – specially designed – and associates gave those away, too.  

Even bigger? 

From First Horizon’s 63 east Tennessee branches, bank associates performed 5,000 hours of community service in east Tennessee in 2023.  

Biggest of all?  

The bank’s foundation is committed to community giving. In 2023, the First Horizon Foundation gave away $18 million, Shaffer said.  

“After giving away a record amount in 2023, the board voted to refill [the foundation] with $50 million which will allow us to make donations in perpetuity,” he said.  

First Horizon has won Best of the Best awards for 16 years straight. Shaffer said it prioritizes its customers – there are some 90,000 in the Chattanooga area – and associates. When those priorities are aligned? 

“If we do that, the shareholders come out just fine,” he said. 

This culture of generosity? Shaffer felt it firsthand on the day of his interview, some 30 years ago. 

“Oh yes,” he said. “As soon as I met the managers, I knew: this is where I want to be.” 


“They cared,” he recalls. 

Undoubtedly, the modern banking industry faces 21st-century challenges within a changing economy and world. Yet through it all, First Horizon aims to continue to exist as a foundational source of community generosity. 

“I am a guardian of the culture,” Shaffer said. “I want to continue this.” 

For more information on First Horizon Foundation grants, visit firsthorizonfoundation.com