The Thorns in Our Path

The hard times he endured growing up have given Synovus Bank Market President Shawn Morgan a deeper appreciation for the success he has now

Words by Terrell Manasco | Image by Blakeney Clouse

A tailored suit accented by a starched dress shirt and tie. An elegant, carpeted office with a view overlooking downtown Jasper. On a desk, a nameplate engraved with Market President, Synovus Bank. Yes, Shawn Morgan has arrived. 

But for Shawn success didn’t come wrapped inside a neat box. Lean years were in abundance when he was a boy growing up in the town of Carbon Hill, his mom and dad earning a tough living by working at Arrow Shirt Factory. “I was raised in a rundown single-wide trailer out in the rural sticks off Fish Hatchery Road,” Shawn says. “We didn’t realize we didn’t have that much because our parents loved us. My mother and daddy worked very hard for anything we had, and they would sacrifice what they needed for me and my brother.”

A self-described “child of the 80s,” Shawn and his brother spent hours at the Pizza Bar, a favorite haunt in those days. Whenever they needed quarters for the arcade games in back, a dollar bill seemed to multiply in the hands of owner Carlos Allison. “He would reach into the register and pull out a handful of quarters, maybe five or ten dollars, and say, ‘Boys, y’all have a good time!’” Shawn recalls. “He always had that love for those kids who came in there.”

One day after playing basketball, Shawn darted into a small grocery store to quench his thirst. He walked out a few minutes later with a Gatorade—and a job offer as a bagboy. “I was 14. I wasn’t even supposed to be working,” Shawn laughs. “I drove the car to work and had to come straight back home. That’s all I’ve ever known. If you need something, go earn it.”

After high school, Shawn did his undergraduate work in biology at Walker College. He had plans to become a pharmacist, but later decided it wasn’t for him. Then a buddy mentioned a job opening in the cash management department of SouthTrust Bank in Birmingham. Shawn applied and was hired. “I answered the phone all day… dealing with people’s problems,” he says. “That’s how I got started in banking.”

Absorbing everything he could about banking, Shawn was given several promotions in cash management. At night he took classes at UAB. When he graduated with a degree in biology and a minor in chemistry, he was immediately promoted to sales. 

Shawn met Jack Naramore in 2002 while working at Colonial Bank. Naramore, a Jasper native, was the bank president for the Birmingham market.The two hit it off and Naramore took Shawn under his wing. Naramore subsequently became president of Alliant Bank in Alexander City, but he didn’t forget his protégé. One day, Shawn got a call. 

“He said, ‘I want you to come start our treasury management department and run it,’” Shawn recalls. “I was 30 years old. This was a big deal. I learned a lot about management and running a team. That was some of the best banking times I can remember.”

When Shawn was offered a job at Synovus Bank in 2018, he already had a promising career at BB&T. Although intrigued, he knew it meant more responsibility. Over the next several weeks, he spent a lot of time on his knees. “I was very happy at BB&T,” Shawn says. “I just wanted to make sure I was doing what the Lord wanted me to do.”

He has never regretted that decision. While Shawn admits it’s been challenging, he loves coming to work every day. “These are the hardest-working bankers that I’ve ever had the privilege to work with,” he says. “The clients love them, and it’s a pleasure to see people who love doing what they do. There’s a lot of men and women who’ve been before us here, putting their entire career into this place. We’re not changing that. We’re building on what’s been built.”

Shawn and his wife, Kelley, will be married 25 years in 2020. They are the parents of eight boys, of which four are adopted. Shawn praises Kelley as a wonderful wife and mother and admits he got the better end of the deal. “I certainly out-kicked my coverage,” he jokes. 

Taking care of customers and being dad to eight sons usually keeps his calendar full, but there is another reason Shawn stays so busy. “I also pastor at Saragossa First Baptist Church,” Shawn says. “That’s a calling, something I feel compelled to do. It’s something down deep that is a passion, a fire that I just can’t let go of.” 

Success hasn’t come easy for Shawn. There were days when the sun seemed to hide its face and the path was lined with thorns. “Somedays I have to pinch myself and think how far the Lord has brought me and how much He has blessed me,” he says. 78

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