Looking back: Bank of America leaves town

Published 9:40 am Friday, August 3, 2018

by Clyde Parker

July 31, 2018
Bank of America closed its Franklin location at the close of its business day on Tuesday, July 31, 2018. Except for online banking and an ATM machine in Franklin, the present-day institution, with roots dating back for over a century in Franklin-Southampton, will no longer have a local presence.

Predecessors of Bank of America include, locally, Vaughan & Company Bankers, Franklin; Meherrin Valley Bank, Boykins; and Bank of Capron, Capron. Those three banks combined in the year 1963 to become Tidewater Bank and Trust Company with headquarters in Franklin and with Clifford A. Cutchins III, of Franklin, as its president.

Vaughan & Company Bankers was formed in 1886 with Cecil C. Vaughan Sr. as its president. A few years later, his son Cecil C. Vaughan Jr. joined the bank as vice president.

(During a good part of his tenure with the bank, Cecil C. Vaughan Jr. was actively involved as commandant of the Virginia Militia, forerunner to the Virginia Army National Guard, and attained the rank of Brigadier General. He saw active service with the Army during the Spanish-American War, leading Company I, made up of Franklin-Southampton men, into Cuba. During World War I, while on active duty with the Army, he attained the rank of Major General.) 

When the senior Mr. Vaughan died in 1924, Vaughan Jr. took charge of the bank. Later, when Vaughan Jr. died in 1929, Cecil C. Vaughan III took over. Still later, in 1960, the founder’s great-grandson, Clifford A. Cutchins III, became president. Cutchins had started with the bank as a teller in 1947. The Vaughan bank was originally located at 102 N. Main St. In 1959, they moved into a new modern building at 306 N. Main St.

Meherrin Valley Bank was formed in 1899. The Bank of Capron was established in 1908.

In 1963, Tidewater Bank and Trust Company, headquartered in Franklin, merged with Virginia National Bank in Norfolk. Virginia National Bank, being the predominant bank, was the name given to the resulting institution. Following the merger, Clifford Cutchins was elected senior vice president of the combined banks. Soon after, he moved his office to Norfolk.

That merger was preceded, over an extended period of time, by consolidation and merger of several other Virginia Banks, including Norfolk’s National Bank of Commerce, with Virginia National Bank.

The vastly reorganized Virginia National Bank was officially formed on April 29, 1963.

In 1964, C. A. Cutchins III, senior vice president of Virginia National Bank in Norfolk, announced the promotion of V.S. Pittman Jr., manager of the Bank’s Capron office, to the position of vice president of Virginia National Bank and trust officer at the Franklin office.

In the year 1968, following an almost two-year construction period, the bank’s 24-story headquarters was completed and occupied on Norfolk’s East Main Street, facing the Elizabeth River waterfront.

In 1969, Cliff Cutchins was elected president of Virginia National Bank. Over the ensuing years, he engineered a number of acquisitions and mergers with various other banks.

In 1980, Cliff Cutchins became chairman and chief executive officer of Virginia National Bankshares Inc.

In 1983, Sovran Bank of Norfolk was formed by merger of Virginia National Bankshares of Norfolk and First & Merchants Bank of Richmond. At that time, Sovran became the largest banking institution in Virginia. Norfolk was chosen as the bank’s headquarters following that merger. And, Cutchins was elected to the position of Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Sovran Financial Corporation.

Clifford A. Cutchins III retired in 1989 but continued as a bank director. And, he continued his involvement in many later negotiations pursuant to the bank’s further expansions and mergers, especially into several southeastern states.

In 1990, C&S/Sovran Corporation was formed by merger of Citizens & Southern National Bank of Atlanta, Georgia with Sovran Bank of Norfolk. Dual headquarters were maintained in Norfolk and Atlanta.

On July 22, 1991, an announcement was made that North Carolina National Bank Corporation, of Charlotte, North Carolina, had bought C&S/Sovran Corporation, forming the nation’s third biggest bank.

The consolidation was given the name “NationsBank” its headquarters, with total assets of $116 billion, was established in Charlotte.

Bennett Brown, then chairman of C&S/Sovran Corporation, became chairman of NationsBank. And, Hugh McColl Jr., then chairman of NCNB, was named chief executive officer of NationsBank, and assumed the chairmanship when Brown retired a year later. 

NationsBank, then ranked behind only Citicorp, with $217 billion in assets, and Chemical Bank Corporation when it was combined with Manufacturers Hanover Corporation, with total assets of $135 billion.

The Board of Directors of NationsBank consisted, at that time, of the NCNB directors and many members of the C&S / Sovran Board of Directors.

In 1998, NationsBank, headquartered in Charlotte, merged with BankAmerica Corporation, headquartered in San Francisco, with Bank of America being the name of the resulting bank; and, Charlotte was selected as its headquarters.

In 1999, following the flood that resulted from Hurricane Floyd, Bank of America, relocated the Franklin bank from its Main Street location to a much smaller facility in the shopping center, next to the Leggett / Belk store. Following the flood recovery, Bank of America chose not to return to downtown; instead, they conveyed the Main Street bank building to the City of Franklin. It was then converted for use as the location for the City of Franklin Social Services Department.

Clifford A. Cutchins III died in 2002.

CLYDE PARKER is a retired human resources manager for the former Franklin Equipment Co. and a member of the Southampton County Historical Society. His email address is magnolia101@charter.net