Following on this week's earlier write-up on Denver based attorney and judge Westbrook Schoonmaker Decker, we continue our stay in Colorado to highlight the life of a man named Maple...an odd first name to be sure, but Maple Talbot Harl didn't let his unusual name keep him from pursuing a distinguished career in public service, building up an impressive resume in the realms of business and politics. He would serve as the State Bank Commissioner of Colorado during the early 1940s and in 1945 began an eight-year tenure as Chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
Born and raised in Missouri, the birth of Maple Talbot Harl took place in the town of Marshall on February 4, 1893, one of two children born to Baptist minister Baldwin Evans Harl (1852-1907) and his wife, the former Maxey J. Campbell. Following his early education, Harl went on to attend the William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree. He later enrolled at the University of Colorado and the University of Chicago's Law School for a year (1916-17) and during his time at this school served as a cadet lieutenant in the University's student corps.
Harl would eventually put his studies on hold at the dawn of American involvement in WWI, and after enlisting at Fort Logan Roots in Arkansas became a 2nd Lieutenant of Infantry. Harl would later become an officer in the First, Second and Third Armies, American Expeditionary Forces, and is recorded as seeing action at the battles at Argonne and St. Mehiel. Honorably discharged from service in 1919, Harl returned to the United States in September of that year and is mentioned by the Greeley Daily Tribune as "remaining in hospitals for four years on account of disabilities received in France." Harl married in Colorado in July 1920 to Maybelle Mayfield (1895-1982), with whom he would later have one daughter, Suzanne Harl Stockmar (1923-2008).
In the years preceding his marriage Maple T. Harl had removed from Missouri to Colorado, and in the late 1910s is recorded as establishing a "clothing store at Canon City". After serving his country overseas and returning home he reentered the Colorado business community and took on the position of Vice President of the Englewood, Colorado State Bank, serving in this position from 1923-25. Harl maintained a lengthy affiliation with the Disabled American Veterans Association, serving as National Commander of that organization from 1937 to 1938, and also served a term as district governor of the Colorado and Wyoming Kiwanis clubs.
From the Greeley Daily Tribune, January 3, 1939.
Throughout the 1930s Maple T. Harl continued involvement with various civic organizations in Denver and Colorado, and in January of 1939 was appointed as the new Colorado State Banking Commissioner, succeeding Grant McFerson, who had died two months previously in November 1938. Harl's tenure as bank commissioner extended to 1945, and in that year was selected by President Harry S. Truman as his choice for Chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Harl was later confirmed and began an eight-year tenure as the corporation's board chairman. Under Harl's watchful eye the FDIC made headlines in 1948 when it finished paying off of a $289,000,000 debt, a "final repayment of capital furnished by the government to the FDIC" fourteen years previously. In a Spokane Daily Chronicle article on the newsworthy event, Harl is quoted as stating that:
"We hold that the American system of free enterprise banking, with federal and state authority sharing credit and responsibility is the right answer to America's banking needs......As the last major system of free enterprise banking in the world, it represents not only an American way of life."
Harl's chairmanship of the FDIC concluded in 1953 with his resignation, but he continued to serve as a regular member of the board until his death, which occurred at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C. on April 17, 1957. Following his death, his body was returned to Colorado for burial at the Fairmount Cemetery in Denver, which, coincidentally, is the same burial location as Westbrook Schoonmaker Decker. Maybelle M. Harl was also interred here following her death at age 87 in 1982.
From the Greeley Daily Tribune, April 18, 1957.