Bloomberg News

Thomas Storrs, Who Set Stage for Bank of America, Dies at 93

February 26, 2012

Feb. 13 (Bloomberg) -- Thomas Storrs, whose determination to expand North Carolina National Bank beyond state borders laid the foundation for today’s Bank of America Corp., has died. He was 93.

Storrs died Feb. 10 in Charlotte, North Carolina, according to a notice in The State newspaper of Columbia, South Carolina. No cause was given.

As chairman and chief executive officer from 1974 to 1983 of NCNB Corp., the Charlotte-based parent of North Carolina National Bank, Storrs set his sights on challenging federal laws that generally limited a bank’s operations to its home state.

In 1982, using a quirk in Florida law, he successfully arranged the acquisition of three Florida banks, beginning with First National Bank of Lake City, with $24 million of assets, and Gulfstream Banks Inc. of Boca Raton, with assets of $665 million, according to accounts in the New York Times.

When he retired in 1983, he handed the reins to Hugh McColl Jr., who would lead an acquisition spree that culminated with the 1998 merger of NationsBank Corp., NCNB’s successor, with San Francisco-based BankAmerica Corp. to create Bank of America, then the largest U.S. bank by deposits.

McColl credited Storrs for the push to expand across state lines, Rick Rothacker wrote in his 2010 book, “Banktown: The Rise and Struggles of Charlotte’s Big Banks.”

“We realized that if we didn’t leave North Carolina, we would never amount to anything, that we would not be important,” McColl said, according to the book. Regardless of how quickly North Carolina could grow, “we could never catch up with New York or somebody like that who already had the benefit of hundreds of years of being a money center.”

‘Tom’s Vision’

In an e-mailed statement yesterday about Storrs’ death, Bank of America CEO Brian T. Moynihan said: “We can serve customers from Charlotte to China and everywhere in between because of Tom’s vision and banking acumen. Tom was an architect of Bank of America and one of the giants on whose shoulders his successors all have stood.”

Thomas Irwin Storrs was born on Aug. 25, 1918, in Nashville, Tennessee, the son of Robert Williamson Storrs Jr., and Addie Sue Payne Storrs, according to the notice in The State. He grew up in Richmond, Virginia, and earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia.

He served as a destroyer officer in the U.S. Navy during World War II and was recalled to active duty during the Korean War. He earned a Ph.D. in economics in 1955 from Harvard University.

He worked his way up to vice president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, which in 1959 made him officer in charge of its branch in Charlotte. A year later he joined North Carolina National Bank as an executive vice president and became vice chairman and president before taking over as chairman and CEO, succeeding Addison Reese.

With the former Kitty Stewart Bird, his wife since 1948, Storrs had a son, Thomas, and a daughter, Margaret.

--Editors: Charles W. Stevens, Adam Majendie.

To contact the reporter on this story: Laurence Arnold in Washington at larnold4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Charles W. Stevens at cstevens@bloomberg.net


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