Edward E. Crutchfield, who grew a small North Carolina bank into one of the nation’s largest through a deal-making spree that earned him the nickname Fast Eddie and helped establish Charlotte, N.C., as a national financial hub, died on Jan. 2 at his home in Vero Beach, Fla. He was 82.
His death was confirmed by his son, Elliott, who said his father had dementia.
When Mr. Crutchfield graduated from business school in 1965, he took a job as a credit analyst at the First Union bank in Charlotte. It was the lowest-paying job he was offered, but he thought he could move up faster at a smaller bank. He sensed opportunity there and in the region, he told his family and colleagues.
Both hunches paid off. At age 32, just seven years after he joined First Union, he became its president. He was thought to be the youngest person in the country to hold that title at a sizable bank.
Mr. Crutchfield’s ambitions were broadened by a 1985 Supreme Court ruling legalizing interstate banking. The decision empowered him, by then his bank’s chairman and chief executive, to gobble up rival banks and failed thrifts, transforming First Union into a super-regional bank with thousands of branches throughout the Southeast.
“I just had a feeling that what turned out to be the Sun Belt would be a good bet,” he told The New York Times in 1983, shortly before he began his buying binge. “I guess we’re rubbing the rabbit’s foot the right way.”
By the time Mr. Crutchfield retired in 2000, First Union had acquired more than 90 banking and lending companies and become the nation’s sixth-largest bank by assets. In 2001, First Union merged with Wachovia, taking on the other bank’s name. Wells Fargo bought Wachovia in 2008, during the meltdown that reshaped the financial industry.