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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with George Watts Hill, January 30, 1986. Interview C-0047. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Impact of the banking holiday and helping smaller banks

Hill discusses his and his father's roles in the national banking holidays during the early years of the Great Depression. At the time, Hill's father was president of the Durham Loan and Trust Company, which later became Central Carolina Bank. Hill and his father had been carving out a name for themselves in banking and he describes how the success they had achieved thus far allowed them to give loans to smaller banks struggling to survive.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with George Watts Hill, January 30, 1986. Interview C-0047. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

The crash comes in the fall of 1929 and then intensifies in '30 and '31.
GEORGE WATTS HILL:
'31. We had our bank holiday in North Carolina because it was coming up from Florida and in South Carolina and Hoover called my father and asked him if he could slow it down or stop it, which we were able to do. As I remember, no bank in Virginia . . .
JAMES LEUTZE:
That was to slow down the runs on the bank. There were people taking their money out.
GEORGE WATTS HILL:
Well, just busting because of that. And we had a little bank, it was a million and a half, as I remember, I was a vice-president at the time. My uncle Isham was running the savings and loan and his son was working in the bank, in the cage. Dad was president, and as I told you about the money going - it's in an article here - feeding it out the back window and people flatten their noses on the window of the corridor and then coming in and making their deposit. We saved the Negro bank, Mechanics and Farmers, we saved the Citizens' Bank.
JAMES LEUTZE:
Now, by saving them you made loans to them?
GEORGE WATTS HILL:
Yeah, we put up some cash and made a loan. The Merchants' Bank, Mr. Clements, busted, had closed its doors. The First National Bank, as I remember, the First National Bank busted. That was the Carr bank. General Julian Carr was the president, and Claiborne Carr, a director, in what's now the North Carolina National Bank building on the southeast corner of Main and Corcoran street.
JAMES LEUTZE:
Why did your bank survive when these other banks . . .
GEORGE WATTS HILL:
Well, as I said before, I went to Charlotte and brought back some money, $500,000, and to Richmond and brought back some more money, $750,000 - cash that my father put up in the Federal Reserve Bank, bonds and what have you, to get the cash, and Dad kept buying notes, taking notes out of the First National Bank, buying them. Just couldn't take them out fast enough. The bank had over loaned, and so forth, and the Merchants' Bank the same way. They were just unable, when business stopped, to meet the demands of the public when they withdrew their money. And cash just wasn't there. Well, we took out seven or eight hundred thousand dollars cash, notes, out of the First National Bank and I don't remember doing anything for the Merchants' Bank. But the Citizens' Bank was the same way. That was the time that Trust Company bank expanded.
JAMES LEUTZE:
Now, what was the bank called at this point?
GEORGE WATTS HILL:
The Durham Loan and Trust Company. Eventually it was changed to Durham Bank and Trust. And when we, as I said, when we merged the University National Bank in Chapel Hill into the Trust Company, as we called it, spoke of it, we changed the name to Central Carolina Bank because Durham, as one of these articles says, Chapel Hill just wouldn't use the word Durham, period. They wouldn't agree to it. So we used Central Carolina, which was by then the area in which we were in business.