Historical marker honors BB&T co-founder Branch

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Officials unveiled a significant historical marker Tuesday, one that recognizes Wilson County’s roots in banking.

The Wilson County Historical Association honored Alpheus Branch, a founder of the bank now known as BB&T. Branch and his friend, Thomas Hadley, founded the bank.

“I’m just proud of its place in the community,” said Branch’s great-great granddaughter Beth McKinney, who attended Tuesday’s event. “I’m happy to see it recognized here.”

Several BB&T officials, family members and community leaders gathered for the unveiling. The marker stands tall at 303 E. Nash St. — the former location of Branch’s home.

Thomas Drug is now at that site.

In 1872, the two men opened Branch and Hadley, according to the BB&T publication “Branch: A Tradition with a Future.”

Branch and Hadley were “interested in starting a bank so that local people could have a trustworthy local financial institution and as such, the small private firm mostly supported businesses and farmers in the young town,” according to the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.

In 1887, the name changed to Branch and Company Bankers, when Branch purchased Hadley’s share of the business.

Branch was born in Halifax County in 1843, according to the book. He married Nannie Barnes of Wilson in 1865, and they later moved to Wilson. Barnes was the daughter of one of Wilson’s founders, Gen. Joshua Barnes.

McKinney said she was grateful to many who made the historical marker possible, including Perry Morrison Jr., president of the Wilson County Historical Association. She and Morrison were law partners 30 years ago.

“He started talking about it then,” she said. “And it happened. We’re very thrilled.”

McKinney said BB&T started as something small and grew larger than its founders could have envisioned. In February, S&P Global Market Intelligence pegged the Winston-Salem-based bank as the United States’ 13th-largest, with more than $221.6 billion in assets under management.

“Now it’s unbelievable,” McKinney said. “It’s everywhere you go.”