A Pioneer Exits

Seventeen years ago, Julia W. Taylor took the helm at North Carolina-based Mechanics and Farmers Bank ( No. 13 on the be banks list this year), she was only one of two female commercial bank presidents in North Carolina, and the only African American bank president in the United States. Taylor retired on September 30 from her position as CEO, chairwoman, and president at M&FB.

“I guess most of the things I wanted to do were ahead of my time,” Taylor said. “I also wanted to become a pilot at one point. I took a few lessons, but at that time women (and blacks) didn’t fly commercial planes.”

Times have changed. Aside from Taylor, women are chief executives at four black-owned banks, a far cry from the situation that existed when Taylor began her career with M&FB in 1955 as a teller and managerial secretary.

Taylor’s imprint is on M&FB’s growth. She guided the bank from $53 million in assets in 1983 to approximately $157 million at her retirement. Under her leadership, M&FB has taken a more aggressive stance in building a technology focus, which will position M&FB to compete with larger banks and expand its services beyond Durham, Raleigh, Charlotte, and Winston-Salem, North Carolina’s major urban markets.

Lee Johnson, M&FB’s executive vice president, chief financial officer, and Financial Group executive, will succeed Taylor. His new title will be president and COO.

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