A life of impact: through work, public service and philanthropy

Some civically-minded people help their community through their profession. Others, through their public service. And still others, by leaving a legacy that lives on after them. J.D. Clawson did all three, and Caldwell County is still reaping the benefits.

Becoming a banker

Gary, Barbara and J.D. ClawsonJ.D. didn’t set out to become a banker. After serving three years in the U.S. Army as a cryptographer, he joined an accounting firm in Lenoir. One of his clients was the Granite Savings Bank. When the bank president retired, he asked J.D. to take his place, and a new banker was born. But this banker saw his job as more than just a business position. It was also a way to help his community.

“It was just in his nature to help anybody he could,” said Gary Clawson, J.D.’s son and president of Granite Savings Bank after his father. “He was able to help a lot of people through the bank by making mortgage loans when no one else did.” Nowadays, it’s common for a lender to sell the loans it originates on the secondary market, but J.D. and the Granite Savings Bank kept their loans on their books.

“People had always been able to come into the bank and make their payment and know exactly where their loan was,” said Gary. “That’s the way he kept it.”

Public service

J.D. didn’t let his responsibilities at the bank keep him behind a desk. He coached little league and senior league baseball and helped raise funds for the J.E. Broyhill Civic Center. He served as commissioner and mayor pro tem for the town of Hudson and was director for the Hudson Fire Department. He served on the local planning board, Western Piedmont Council of Governments, the local elementary school board and the advisory board for South Caldwell High School.

Endowment for Caldwell County

J.D. also served on the boards of local nonprofits, such as the Shelter Home of Caldwell County and South Caldwell Christian Ministries (SCCM), and he created a way to help support those nonprofits as well as cultural, civic, moral and educational efforts for the long term: the Granite Savings Bank Unrestricted Endowment. The fund was created at the North Carolina Community Foundation in 1993 when Granite Savings Bank merged with Centura Bank.

“There was a half-million dollars set aside,” said Gary, who is an advisor for the fund with J.D.’s wife Barbara. “It was actually part of dad’s compensation. He set it aside. He wanted to create the endowment in order to give back to the community.”

“He structured the fund so it would go to recipients in Caldwell County,” said Gary. “Of course, he wanted the fund to be in perpetuity and that it would still be here in a hundred years.” J.D. died in 2012.


Deborah Thomas, director of South Caldwell Christian Ministries, credits the fund with providing vital stability for her organization.

“The Granite Savings Bank Endowment has always provided a grant that allows us to put the dollars wherever the community’s greatest need may be at the moment,” said Thomas. “Whether it is for food, power, water or rent assistance throughout the year, kerosene and blankets in the winter, or fans or ACs in the summer, we know we can use the unrestricted endowment funds to help us take care of our families’ greatest needs and truly serve them.”

J.D.’s wife, Barbara, spearheaded a drive to expand the SCCM’s facility and used funds from the endowment to help as well. “With the assistance of both Barbara and the Granite Savings Bank Endowment, we were able to double our size,” said Thomas.

The endowment fund also regularly supports projects through the First Baptist Church of Lenoir that provide fuel for residents struggling to pay their heating bills and warm clothing to local students. Each year the fund solicits a list from schoolteachers of students who need a warm coat, along with their sizes. The fund advisors then place an order with a local department store for hundreds of coats that go to those students.

The Granite Savings Bank Endowment Fund celebrated its 30th anniversary at NCCF in 2023 and has granted out more than $885,000 to community nonprofits.