Waco Cotton Palace King 2016

By Gretchen Eichenberg

S. Boyce Brown

S Boyce Brown, longtime Chairman & CEO of Extraco Corporation and Extraco Banks, will be crowned Cotton Palace King at the 46th annual Waco Cotton Palace Historical Production on Friday, April 22, 2016 continuing a family tradition of gracious living, heritage and community building that spans three generations. Brown recently stepped down as president of the Waco Industrial Foundation and is a board member of the Federal Reserve Community Depository Institution Advisory Council for both the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and for the Federal Reserve System Board of Governors in Washington, D.C. He has held numerous leadership roles in the community, was recognized with Boy Scouts of America’s Silver Eagle Award in 2008 and is a former senior warden and member of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

“I’ve grown up with Cotton Palace,” Brown said. “It has been a part of Waco nearly all of my life. My grandmother was a Duchess in the original Texas Cotton Palace Spanish Court in 1921, and my mother was instrumental in bringing to life the Waco Cotton Palace in 1970.”

For Brown, Cotton Palace is about continuing to enrich the Waco community by bringing people together, building relationships and touching the lives of people, near and far.

“More than 2,000 families from all over the world have brought their sons and daughters to Waco to see our city, admire our heritage and be exposed to our community in the most personal of ways,” he said. “Wacoans have graciously welcomed them into our homes and offered a hand of friendship to their children, who build new friendships as they start their adult journeys. We build cities by building relationships — in this way Cotton Palace builds our community.”

That perspective has inspired Brown’s desire to create more awareness of Historic Waco Foundation (HWF), an organization dedicated to preserving Waco’s rich history and heritage, during his reign as king.

“HWF has diligently worked to preserve four of our oldest homes from the 1800s,” Brown said. “These irreplaceable homes are part of our Waco story and heritage. They offer us perspective and a challenge for the future.”

Specifically, Brown would like to generate support for HWF’s revitalization of the historic Fort House, located at the corner of 4th Street and Webster Avenue in downtown Waco, across the street from Hotel Indigo, the Magnolia Market and within walking distance of Extraco’s new downtown bank branch.

“Cotton Palace and the Historic Waco Foundation join Extraco in a century of work to enrich the lives of all of our citizens and share our heritage,” said Brown.

HWF hopes to raise $25,000 through grants and donations to refresh the house so it may be used by future generations for receptions and rental space.

“It is a special joy to celebrate Waco’s heritage through the revitalization of Fort House, during Cotton Palace 2016 and introduce it to guests from around the state and across the country,” Brown said.

Brown said he believes keeping Waco’s history alive is vitally important to its future.

“Under the inspirational leadership of Donald B. Davis, HWF is reaching out to schools and younger generations to remind us of our heritage, to tell our community story and remember who we are so as to inspire our future,” Brown said. “Programs include free “Traveling Trunks” for local schools which bring the museum into the class room, special historic field trips for Waco children, and summer camps where our children actually participate in experiences to live out life in the late 1800s.”

Fort House, once in a prominent downtown location, now finds itself in that place again. And Brown said he wants to be sure Cotton Palace participants — both from in town and out of town — take note of its beauty and importance.

“We want our community and guests to know about Fort House, and learn about our heritage,” he said. “We want our guests to enjoy the growing vibrancy of the future River Walk area, the fresh experience of drinks at Hotel Indigo or watching the Baylor Bears win another game for the ages.”

The cotton industry helped build the city of Waco, and Brown said he thinks it’s important to remember that.

“In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Waco was one of the cotton capitals of the world,” he said. “In those days, Waco was larger than Dallas, something the railroads would drastically change, but not for a time. Cotton was a major industry in Texas, and job creator for Waco.”

The Brown family was close to the cotton industry.

“My grandfather started out working for, and later running and owning a cotton mill in Mississippi,” he said. “Responding to his sister’s family crisis, he sold his business, moved his family to Waco and acquired Exporters and Traders Compress and Warehouse Company, a small cotton warehousing company in East Waco, creating a new working partnership between the Browns and Dossett families.”

In 2020, Extraco Banks, which was bought by Exporters and Traders Compress and Warehouse Company and subsequently spun out to these same shareholders in 1970, will mark 100 years of Brown family management over three generations.

“I share this story because it speaks to the close ties Extraco, Cotton Palace and the Historic Waco Foundation share,” Brown said. “We all have deep, longstanding ties to Waco, job-creating industries and – most importantly – in building our people, businesses and community to enrich all of our citizens.”

This year alone, 275 volunteers will come together in the spirit of sharing and encouragement to make the weekend meaningful.

“The Cotton Palace crest reads “Sursum Corda” or “Lift Up Your Hearts” and these volunteers live that mission by offering their homes, time, talent and resources without asking for anything in return,” Brown said. “They offer themselves because they love people, and they love enriching others. They are proud of Waco and want to share it.”

Brown believes this spirit is a great marketing and goodwill initiative that has quietly and engagingly impacted people in a positive way with a tremendous benefit for all Waco’s citizens.

“When Waco’s hospitality becomes known throughout our state and country as a place that is welcoming, gracious and caring to all members of our community, every citizen is enriched by the resulting economic growth and prosperity,” he said.

Though he’s focused on Waco’s bright future, Brown can’t help but reminisce about what Cotton Palace meant to him as a child and young adult.
“I have fond memories of serving as a Royal Attendant under Dolly Ensey, our first Queen of the Waco Cotton Palace in 1970,” he said. “Back then they had us dress up in blue velvet uniforms with white ruffles. It was a thrill then, just as it was for our daughters in more recent times. I remember [participating in] the Maypole scene with St. Paul’s Episcopal School, working with Mr. Bill Cook, our original production director, and practicing late into the night. We met children from all across Waco, and built friendships and community together.”

Those who lived in Waco during the 70s and 80s might agree with Brown that the Brazos River Festival at East Terrace, an outreach program of the Historic Waco Foundation, was always a big treat the Saturday after the pageant.

“We would participate in the egg toss or wheel barrel race and enjoy a hot dog or hamburger for lunch,” he said. “Vendors of all kinds lined up with interesting art, pottery and a wide variety of all kinds of things at HWF East Terrace House. There were the beautiful Princesses and Duchesses taking turns rotating around the Waco historic homes in formal, glittery and colorful dresses.”

For Brown, Cotton Palace has truly been a family affair — and that’s a tradition he’s proud to carry on this year as king.

“My father and mother, along with many other great Waco leaders, worked very hard to help build the organization, expand out of town participation and frame the values of graciousness that lives out in the Cotton Palace mission ‘Lift Up Your Hearts.’ It is a special honor to contribute back to it in this way.”