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

Clashing business models at Wachovia in the 1960s

Medlin entered Wachovia when the banking industry was at a crossroads, he recalls, torn between progressiveness and caution. His generation was, in his words, a transitional generation that made way for reformist baby boomers.

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

JOSEPH MOSNIER:
Do you have a quick sketch of the business culture in North Carolina that you encountered in these early years at the bank? The sorts of types of business owners and leaders you are encountering in those years and what their worlds to look like to them as you could measure it, the business world?
JOHN MEDLIN:
I was so far down in the hierarchy of the bank and of the profession that I didn't encounter outside leaders in any direct interpersonal sense. It was more through someone else's eyes or through reading of the press. But my impression was it was a fairly progressive community in lots of ways. At the same time, very traditional and still influenced a lot by the experiences of the Great Depression. That there was a, on one hand a progressiveness and on the other an underlying caution. That was true of Wachovia; that was true of banking; that was true of many other businesses. You occasionally found a visionary who was willing to step out and do something bold and imaginative and new, but that was not particularly widespread I'd say in the '50s or even the '60s. In a sense my generation, the generation I guess that was born in the '30s, grew up in the '40s, educated in the '50s, went to work in the late '50s, early '60s. We were a little bit of a bridge between the people who were either hired or were working in the Great Depression and through World War Two and in the fifties really hadn't changed that much when I arrived at Wachovia. A lot of the things that were done during the '50s, I mean, '60s and particularly in the '70s were challenging those old premises that you couldn't do that because we got in trouble doing it in the '30s. I think we were that transitional generation that eventually gave way to the even more aggressive change of the baby-boomers and those who've come into leadership positions since.