Documenting the American South Logo
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with John Medlin, May 24, 1999. Interview I-0076. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Sources of values for career in business

In this excerpt, Medlin shares the sources of the values that have guided his career: his upbringing on a farm, part-time work at a newspaper, his family, and the military.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with John Medlin, May 24, 1999. Interview I-0076. 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

Can you talk a little bit about your range of values that you brought to the bank in '59 when you arrived, the kinds of experiences that had mostly shaped you, the things to which you were committed, the sort of career you hoped to put together and the values around which career would be structured?
My earlier work experience obviously on a farm was dealing with the perils of the weather, commodity prices and all the things that make farming a difficult business, year in and year out. At the same time I'd learned the importance of hard work, learned the importance of careful analysis to make sure you were on sound financial footing whether it be the farm or your own teenager personal finances. I had also worked part-time for a newspaper, a weekly hometown newspaper in Benson, North Carolina near where I grew up on the farm. I had gotten to know some people there who had an influence on my life, Ralph Delano and a family, the Wilson family that had bought that newspaper and started. I was the only employee. They were people of very strong values, very good journalists and had sort of reinforced my independent spirit and values that I'd learned through the family. So Wachovia was sort of an extension of that. It seemed like a natural extension of what I had done in my early life.
How did you measure your career ambitions starting as a young professional banker in '59? What types of opportunities in the bank seemed to lie ahead? Did you have any sense then that one day you would be sitting where you are? Did it seem that this was a place that offered this broad range of opportunity?
I had no ambition to be the Chief Executive Officer when I came to work. I was more humble to that ambitious and humbled from the standpoint of there was so much to learn and so much growth opportunity. A captain I had in the Navy named Chester Nimitz, Jr. the son of the World War Two admiral had a great influence on my values I guess too. He had several expressions that he said along the way that made an impression on me. He said, 'Sonny, when they ask for volunteers for dirty jobs, raise your hand. Those that do the tough jobs and do them well are the ones that get ahead.' Another expression is, 'Knowledge is power. You know, learn everything you can and when we came upon the Japanese submarines in the Pacific, we knew how fast they went, how quick they could turn. We had a great advantage when we came up to torpedo them.' I could relate this to credit analysis. One of my first jobs when I arrived was to be a credit analyst in loan administration, which meant focusing in a microscopic way on the facts involving a credit situation and analyzing that and developing your probabilities of success or failure of the enterprise or individual. So all this with my college education, military experience, farming experience, newspaper experience all seemed to sort of move me in a direction. Of course to try to learn what there was to learn about Wachovia and to learn about the profession but not to be concerned about where I was going to be five years or ten or twenty years later.