James Gardner, who co-founded investment firm Commerce Street Holdings in Dallas, died last week from congestive heart failure.

Gardner, 79, chaired Commerce Street, which has a focus on the banking industry, from its 2007 creation until his retirement last year. His 57-year career had deep roots in commercial banking. He was president of mBank (formerly Mercantile Bank) in Manistique, Mich., and president and chief executive of the now-closed Pacific Southwest Bank in Corpus Christi, Tex.

Later in his career, Gardner became an investment banker, working as senior managing director of Samco Capital Markets in Austin, Tex., for 13 years. He was also a former president of the Dallas Bankers Association.

Gardner “was known as a brilliant businessman, a leader amongst leaders, a mentor and a friend,” Commerce Street said in a press release Friday. He “loved everything about the world of banking, which was evident in his devotion to all who passed through his door looking for advice on how to sell a bank, buy a bank or run a bank.”

Commerce Street founded two scholarships in Gardner’s memory at Southern Methodist University’s SW Graduate School of Banking and Cox School of Business.

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