State 125

The friendship that helped create Bank of America

Hootie Johnson
Hootie Johnson File photo/The State

The friendship between Hugh McColl and Hootie Johnson, a pair of banker’s sons from small South Carolina cities, would spark the mergers that created the country’s largest bank – Bank of America.

Johnson, a former University of South Carolina running back from Greenwood, learned about developing relationships from his father, who worked to build a statewide bank in South Carolina. McColl’s father had traded farming in Bennettsville for banking but encouraged his son to go into finance.

After getting to know each other after taking over banks across the Carolinas state line, the pair talked about going nationwide. “He’d travel down here and we’d talk about it, dream about it,” Johnson said.

Johnson merged his Bankers Trust with McColl’s North Carolina National Bank in 1985. McColl would lead the charge in creating what has become the Charlotte-based power bank with Johnson serving as his confidant on the company’s executive committee.

While McColl became a major financial and community player in North Carolina, Johnson stuck around South Carolina to lead committees to desegregate colleges, run state ports and raise money for USC. He became a national figure as chairman of the Augusta National Golf Club.

“I have observed this state’s history and been fortunate to be part of it,” Johnson said.

Andrew Shain