LOOKING BACK: Meherrin Valley Bank remodeled

Published 8:31 am Sunday, February 25, 2024

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Seventy-five years ago, on Monday, Feb. 21, 1949, several hundred people stormed the Meherrin Valley Bank building in Boykins — located on the southeast corner of Main Street and Railroad Avenue. And all were permitted to enter. They were not there to draw their money out of the bank but to admire the interior of the structure, which had recently undergone extensive remodeling and refurnishing at a cost of approximately $25,000.

Throughout that evening a steady stream of visitors including bankers from Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Franklin, Courtland, Capron, Windsor and other nearby towns and cities passed into the brightly illuminated banking house, greeting the bank’s officials and congratulating them on their accomplishments.

First in the receiving line to welcome visitors to the bank’s open house was Hinton T. Smith, cashier for 10 years and a member of the board of directors. Not in the receiving line but in his cubicle near the center of the high-ceiling room was Robert H. Powell Sr., the bank’s 88-year-old president, whose memory had been undimmed by the passage of time and who was constantly surrounded by well-wishers seeking to shake his hand. For each of them, Mr. Powell had a cheerful comment, his ability to place them being a little short of astounding. At that time, Mr. Powell was believed to be one of the oldest, if not the oldest, bank presidents in the United States.

In the remodeling and renovation of the banking house, no one took a greater interest than did retiree Robert F. Marks who had served as president of the bank starting in 1919. It is not too much to say that Mr. Marks literally beamed with pride. Seated in his chair near the huge nine-ton door of the vault, he surveyed with obvious satisfaction the scene which to him was the culmination of years of dreaming and planning.

Assisting Mr. Smith in welcoming the visitors were Mrs. Bertie Drewry Schneider, a popular member of the banks clerical force, and Miss Lulie Drew Barham of Suffolk, whose father, the late Joseph L. Barham of Newsoms, was the bank’s first president.   

Starting in October 1902, with a capital of only $10,000, the resources of the Meherrin Valley Bank grew to considerably more than $2,000,000 in 1949. The original capital stock of $10,000 had grown in par value to $50,000 entirely through stock dividends, no additional new shares ever having been sold.        

In 1963, Meherrin Valley Bank of Boykins, Bank of Capron, and Vaughan & Company Bankers of Franklin combined and formed Tidewater Bank and Trust Company with headquarters in Franklin — with Clifford A. Cutchins III, of Franklin, as its president. 

Also, 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 that merger, Clifford Cutchins was elected senior vice president of the combined banks. Soon after that, he moved his office to Norfolk. 

That merger was preceded, over an extended period of time, by consolidations and mergers with 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 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, Clifford Cutchins was elected president of Virginia National Bank. Over the ensuing years, he was involved with a number of acquisitions and mergers with various other banks which, when combined, ultimately resulted in the establishment of Bank of America. 

In 1980, Clifford Cutchins became chairman and chief executive officer of Virginia National Bankshares, Inc. In 1983, Virginia National Bankshares merged with First and Merchants Bank of Richmond to form Sovran Bank — with headquarters in Norfolk and Clifford Cutchins as chairman and chief executive officer of the combined banks.

In 1989, Clifford Cutchins retired.

From 1989 to 1998, several other acquisitions and mergers occurred resulting in the establishment of Nations Bank.

In 1998, Nations Bank, headquartered in Charlotte, merged with Bank America Corporation, headquartered in San Francisco, and formed Bank of America — with headquarters in Charlotte.

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.