At the age of 16, with $16 in his pocket, Earl T. Allen Jr. left Van Buren, Ark., to live with his sister in Fort Worth.
In the 60 years since, Allen has been CEO of a successful national manufacturing company, he and wife Jean raised a son and a daughter, and his family traveled the world and vacationed on the various vessels he has docked over the years at Lake Texoma.
But second only to stories about his grandchildren, Earl Allen sparkles most when he talks about his time at the Greater East Dallas Chamber of Commerce.
“It’s the involvement,” Allen says in his chamber office at Caruth Plaza.
“There are so many wonderful people and organizations connected to this chamber. I so enjoy being of service to them.”
And service is nothing new to Allen. He has been a civic leader on a variety of educational and charity boards throughout his career. For most of last year, Allen volunteered, again, full-time as president of the chamber and was recently appointed to the position by the chamber’s board.
When Pete Sessions started his term as chairman of the chamber’s board January 1993, he was faced with the resignation of the chamber’s past president and not enough funds to fill the position full-time. Allen came on to help out and has been at the chamber since.
“Earl Allen is a generous man, and we are grateful to have him step in as president,” Sessions says.
For Allen, stepping in to help out was a sort of homecoming.
“It was a pleasure returning to the Greater East Dallas Chamber because it’s like a second home,” says Allen, a two-term past president and nine-year board member.
After 45 years of a “wonderful marriage,” Allen’s wife died two years ago after a series of complications from an automobile accident. They had just purchased their second dream home with an indoor pool.
“Jean was an exceptional girl. Just before we met, she had graduated from the University of Texas with a major in physics and a minor in chemistry,” he says.
“I used to tease her about cooking our first meal on a Bunsen burner.”
In the late 1930s, he attended TCU and earned his tuition by typing in the administrative offices. He was twice elected student body president and was editor of the campus newspaper.
“Then Uncle Sam hired me, and I spent the next several years in the South Pacific with naval duties attached to the Marines,” Allen says.
After his military service, Allen returned to Fort Worth and started a professional career.
“I began a small company selling banking supplies, traveling to the county seats throughout the Southwest by bus,” Allen says.
“Over the years, the bankers would complain about the design of their banks, so I began devising renovation plans for bank lobbies,” Allen says.
“Quality woods were hard to come by then because of the war effort, but I could always get what I needed from Dallas Showcase Company, founded in 1880, owned by Mr. Coerver.”
Allen eventually bought the company, later named Coerver Industries, and moved to Dallas from Fort Worth in 1953. The company’s lavish interiors and cabinetry of wood and glass are in hotels and banks throughout the nation – even at the National Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
“I’m very proud of the work we did in Washington,” Allen says. “Many of America’s most important documents are encased by our products.”
After selling the company in 1985, Allen joined the Fidelity Bank of Dallas as director of marketing and business development. He recently retired from Fidelity.
Allen’s free time is spent with his daughter, Rebecca Archer, a chief nurse in Fort Worth, and her family, which includes two grandchildren.
Allen’s son, Richard, also in the manufacturing business, lives in Dallas with his wife, and their son is in college.
“I have been blessed with a wonderful family and a very nice career,” Allen says.
“It’s been just terrific to give back to the community through the Greater East Dallas Chamber.”