Tom S. King, who headed the Texas Savings and Loan League during its darkest days, will retire as president next month.

The 67-year-old grandfather of 15 plans to become a thrift consultant, play golf, and maybe try to write a book or miniseries about Texas' S&L crisis.

"I'd really like to hook up with a real good television scriptwriter," he said during a visit to Washington last week. "The story line would be real interesting."

|We Have Gone Through a Holocaust'

Mr. King took the group's top job in 1984, after Durward Curley resigned to become a Washington lobbyist for some of the state's highest-flying S&Ls. That was the year the biggest financial scandal in U.S. history began to unfold, with some of the Texas league's members playing starring roles. The state organization lost most of its members as a result of the catastrophic failures that followed.

"We have gone through a holocaust," Mr. King said of that time. "We had 281 institutions with about $104 billion in assets; now we have about 68 institutions with a little over $50 billion in assets."

"I'm the end of an era," he said, adding that the remainder of the Texas thrift industry has a bright future. The 68 surviving S&Ls earned $240 million in 1991, up from $80 million in 1990 and a $566 million loss in 1989.

Meanwhile, the Texas league has built its net worth to $2.5 million, compared with $89,000 in 1984. Members are considering the formation of a joint S&L association with neighboring states, which could give added clout in Washington. Officials of the Texas league said a merger decision is still months away.

Mr. King graduated from Baylor University in 1948 with a business degree and took a job as a bookkeeper with a small S&L in Dallas. Five years later, he moved to Houston to work at Southwestern Savings Association of Texas. He was chief operating officer when he retired in 1982.

Mr. King said he was recruited for the league job in 1984 by S&L operators who did not want to be lumped together in the public's mind with the dishonest ones.

"He was able to hold the industry together in a very tough, troublesome time," said Michael Cornwall, president of Guaranty Federal Bank of Dallas, which has $7 billion in assets. "We were considered crooks. Tom worked very hard to counteract that."

"He brought experience and integrity to the business," added Eric Sandberg, the Texas league's senior vice president.

|I Never Apologized'

In lobbying both in Austin and Washington, Mr. King sought to restore the industry's tattered image by supporting tougher capital rules and laws to crack down on wayward S&L operators.

Because of his association with notorious Texans, he found that "people wouldn't even want to sit with me. I took the brunt. I took the jokes. I never apologized."

He sees a marked change in Congress' attitude over the past two years. He pointed out that some lawmakers have lobbied regulators to ease up on examinations of banks.

Mr. King's current advice to Congress: "Leave us alone for a couple of years."

Congress, he added, should stop changing the industry's rules so often and grant struggling but well-managed S&Ls forbearance to help them survive.

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