John Medlin Jr.

Hometown: Johnston County, NC

Industry: Banking

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early life

Born November 23, 1933, John Medlin grew up in rural Johnston County, North Carolina. Raised during the Great Depression, John quickly learned the importance of family and hard work. After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1956, he joined the Navy and served until 1959. John and his wife, Pauline, were married in 1958 and were together until his death in 2012. They have two daughters, Elizabeth and Ridgley, and five grandchildren. After leaving the Navy, John Medlin returned home and immediately started looking for a job. He knew he wanted to work for a company that shared his values, principles and philosophies.


He found a home at Wachovia where he worked for 41 years. He started as a credit analyst, but it wasn’t long before John began moving up the ranks. No stranger to hard work, John always strived to do his best and believed those who do the tough jobs and do them well are the ones that move ahead. After working with customers in loan administration and serving as Executive Vice President reporting to the Wachovia CEO, John Medlin was made President and Chief Operating Officer of Wachovia in 1974.

In 1977, John Medlin became Chief Executive Officer of Wachovia where he would serve until his retirement in 1993. John made it a point to put relationships at the forefront of the Wachovia philosophy and established mutual trust with their customers through a revolutionary personal banker program. He continued to serve on the Wachovia Board of Directors until 1998.

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free enterprise hero

Growing up, community was always important to John. During this time, he became very active in a number of civic organizations.  He also served on the boards of many companies and nonprofits. In 1991 and 1992, John received the American Banker Award as the most admired banking CEO, as well as the American Banker Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002. In 1990 he was selected by Financial World Magazine as the Chief Executive of the Decade of the Eighties for Southern Banks, as well as the Best Chief Executive in the nation in 1993. 

As CEO of Wachovia John Medlin always put the customer first. “Size has never been our goal. Excellence and quality is our goal . . . customers don’t care about how big you are; they care about the service that you give them.” John Medlin, Jr. always put people first and encouraged a strong work ethic in all Wachovians.  He truly believed in the power of the free enterprise system. His steadfast leadership and vision leave a legacy that future leaders can use as an example today.