KINGMAN - William Becker, who died April 2, was one of Kingman's most innovative citizens. Becker founded the Motel 6 chain and Kingman's own The Stockmen's Bank. Friends and family will be celebrating his life from 5 to 7 p.m. today at the Kingman Elks Lodge.
"He was a very intense, driven man," said his son, Tod Becker. "He was constantly thinking of new ideas. His mind was constantly moving."
Becker was born in Pasadena, Calif. He served in the Navy in World War II and married soon after he returned home. He lived with his wife, Joan Bolas, in Santa Barbara and helped his father with his painting business.
But painting couldn't satisfy Becker's active mind. He soon created his own construction business and retired in 1960.
While on a trip across the United States with his family, Becker kept running into one rundown motel or hotel after another. The thought that there should be something better for the money kept him from sleeping one night, Tod said. That night, Becker woke up with an idea. He quickly wrote it down and went back to sleep. The next morning, he put his plan into action.
He called his old construction partner and told him his idea - to build clean, nice, inexpensive hotels for families and other travelers to stay in. Becker and his partner decided on Motel 6 for the name. The rooms would be rented at $6 a night, a very reasonable rate in the early 1960s.
The first Motel 6 opened in Santa Barbara in 1962.
In 1974, Becker attempted to retire again. He sold his interest in the Motel 6 franchise, which now included 180 motels. He had previously purchased the Fort Rock Ranch near Kingman and he moved the family to Arizona in 1978.
According to Tod, ranching was something his father had always wanted to do. He had grown up during the Great Depression and had worked for the forestry service. He enjoyed riding horses and the hard work of ranching, but his active mind wouldn't let him be.
One day in 1974, Becker drove into Kingman to have his signature guaranteed on some stock and bond certificates. He arrived in town after driving more than two hours over rough dirt roads. When he got to his bank in Kingman, he found that he also needed the bank president's signature on the certificates. Unfortunately, the president had left for lunch. Becker had to wait an hour before the man came back to sign the certificates.
According to Tod, his father was not a patient man and he did not like the idea of having to wait an hour to get a signature. Becker made a comment to one of the tellers at the bank that he was upset about having to wait and what this town needed was a real bank.
In 1979, Becker became a banker. With a group of close friends, he started The Stockmen's Bank. The bank's name came from the group who were all cattlemen or ranchers at the time. It was the first locally owned and independent bank in Kingman. Becker was more comfortable in cowboy boots, a hat and jeans, so that became the bank's dress code.
Stockmen's expanded across Arizona and into California. Becker was the bank's only chairman during the first 25 years of its history. The bank was sold to National Bank of Arizona last year. It was the largest independent bank in Arizona at the time of the merger in January.
Over the years, Becker quietly involved himself in several causes and projects in the community. "He wasn't one to toot his own horn," Tod said.
He will be remembered by many as an innovative pioneer with unequaled drive. His family requests that donations be sent to KRMC Hospice House, c/o Jamie Taylor, 3269 Stockton Hill Road, Kingman, AZ 86409-3619.