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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 >>

Banking business in North Carolina during the 1930s

Hill discusses his and his father's business in banking during the 1930s. He describes in great detail the relationship of various North Carolina banks to one another, stressing the complexities that characterized such business relationships and interactions. Throughout, his emphasis on the importance of business strategy and leader is apparent.

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

GEORGE WATTS HILL:
His father-in-law was vice-president, stockholder in the Fidelity Bank, as they called it; that was the Duke bank, the Dukes were president and vice president. Then my father became, when my grandfather died, he became vice-president. And when the Fidelity Bank was merged into Wachovia, he became the largest stockholder in Wachovia Bank through stock that he had inherited and had bought and still controlled two other banks, the old Home Savings Bank which we merged into the Trust Company in '37, what's now CCB. But Durham Realty and Insurance Company, fire insurance, now known as Southland, was in the back of that next building. I can remember vividly the back of the first floor of the old Trust Building. And the bank was on the right hand side and the Morris Plan Bank on the left. I don't know whether you remember the Morris Plan.
JAMES LEUTZE:
No.
GEORGE WATTS HILL:
That was the installment loan bank that eventually was combined with another bank in Durham and is now lost sight of. Guaranty Bank takes its place in taking care of the working man, you might say. He started that. I think Morris Plan Bank became the Guaranty Bank. And where old Home Savings Bank used to be he built the Temple Building which is immediately to the west across Market Street from the Trust Building. The Elk's were on the top floor, the third floor under the roof, and eventually the life insurance company was on the second floor, and the Home Savings Bank was on the first floor of the Trust Building. And I lowered the steps. In those days they had ten steps high to the main floor. The postal telegraph was on the west side, and the barber shop, all ten chairs, was, oh, the barber shop was a tremendous thing. Durham Realty was in the back. And I lowered that damn thing some time after '31 or '33 or something, I lowered it to sidewalk level, and then built an addition of sixteen foot, you can see it back there now. I built that because the city was talking about widening Market Street and I didn't want to see it widened, so we built sixteen foot before the city could move. [laughter] And my father's office was in that eventually. And the old hotel was there, that was a community building.
JAMES LEUTZE:
The Washington . . .
GEORGE WATTS HILL:
The Washington Duke Hotel, named after Wash Duke. That had been a community operation, financed it in bond issue, and so forth, all kinds of graft. Oh, yeah.
JAMES LEUTZE:
Now, so your father was involved with the bank that became the Wachovia Bank.
GEORGE WATTS HILL:
Eventually. He owned stock in it, but he owned the old Durham Loan and Trust Company, which is now CCB and the old Home Savings Bank which was merged into CCB later, it's name being changed sometime whenever we combined.
JAMES LEUTZE:
With a bank here in Chapel Hill. But now, wasn't there competition between these banks, between Wachovia and Central Carolina?
GEORGE WATTS HILL:
Oh, yeah. It was the old Fidelity Bank. And as I told you, the Trust Company, as we called it, had merged the Home Savings into it, was growing faster than Fidelity and we'd gotten on a parity with them, $10 million or something like that. And Fidelity became frightened and joined, merged into Wachovia. And, hell, we fought them like a bunch of damn tigers, always have. Wachovia is a very fine bank. It doesn't bother us any more. Central Carolina is so dominant in the area, Durham and Chapel Hill, I imagine we're ahead of the North Carolina National Bank in Chapel Hill. But I know we're way ahead of all the other banks put together in Durham and we're ahead of them. It was logical, the home office.
JAMES LEUTZE:
OK, now then. So your father got involved in the insurance company, in farming, in city politics - city council, in banking.