Founder C. Felix Harvey Passes at Age 93 - Union Bank Skip to Content
Important Notice
UB Bancorp, the holding company for Union Bank, has agreed to merge with FNB Corporation. Read the Press Release HERE.

Founder C. Felix Harvey Passes at Age 93

Press Release icon

Press Release from Union Bank
Kinston, NC (ticker OTCBB: “LTLB”)
CONTACT: Rob Jones, CEO (252) 317-2805 or Lee Burrows, Executive Committee Chairman (404) 558-5558
DATE: January 6, 2014

Distinguished Eastern North Carolina Businessman and Bank Chairman Dies

Union Bank chairman and founder, Felix Harvey, who developed his family’s farm supply business into a conglomerate of agricultural, transportation and financial companies and was a generous North Carolina philanthropist, died January 2, 2014. Harvey was 93 years old. Harvey was born Charles Felix Harvey, III in Kinston in 1920. After his father died when he was 13, he was raised by his grandmother, Lula Gill, the widow of a Civil War Veteran. He credited her with helping him to develop the self–discipline that was instrumental in his success. Harvey recalled in a recent interview that she would tell him in his teen years to: “make me love you more by honoring my instructions.”

By age seven, Harvey was already earning his spending money by loading his goat-led wagon with fresh vegetables from his grandmother’s garden and pulling them to the sidewalk to sell. That began a career in which he would build multiple successful business ventures.

Harvey attended Kinston Public Schools, Woodberry Forest School for his high school years and he graduated from The University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill in 1943 with a B. S. in Commerce. Shortly thereafter he entered active service with the United States Navy. He was commissioned an Ensign and served two years in PT Boat Combat Duty in the Southwest Pacific, serving under command of Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., the movie star. Later he was transferred to duty at Ocracoke, North Carolina.

Although Harvey started and invested in countless businesses over his career, he especially loved banking and insurance. He founded two banks, including Union Bank, and an insurance company. In 1998, at the age of 78, he co-founded Union Bank with his son-in-law, R. Lee Burrows, where Harvey served as Chairman of the Board and Burrows served as Executive Committee Chairman. Harvey also served on the boards of five New York Stock Exchange companies, traveling around the world on their behalf. The Harvey family commuted to Atlanta during the 1960s when he became the CEO of Georgia International Life Insurance Company. In 1972 when he left Atlanta, he declined an offer of an executive position in New York to return to Eastern North Carolina to expand the family business, since he preferred soil – rather than concrete.

Union Bank CEO, Rob Jones, believes that Harvey’s ties to the land and agriculture served him well in business. “I will always remember Felix Harvey as a farmer. He knew how to plant a seed, nurture the plant, let the crop develop, harvest it and finally, get ready to do it all over again. In that regard he was a gifted farmer of business, relationships and people. He was especially good at cultivating people. Recruiting, motivating and developing his own employees were among his greatest strengths. I am very proud to have been one of the “seeds.”

In addition to founding Union Bank, Harvey also founded Kinston, NC based First Financial Bank which later sold to BB&T in 1993. Harvey served as Chairman of the board of First Financial until its sale. In the 1970s and 80s Harvey also served on the board of directors of NCNB, now known as Bank of America, and was on the board when dynamic NCNB CEO, Hugh McColl, was selected. He loved the financial services sector and was an active investor in southeastern bank stocks throughout his life.

He remained extremely active in the various Harvey family businesses throughout his career, though in recent years these companies have been guided by his son-in-law, John O. McNairy, and now have over 800 employees. Harvey knew most of his employees personally and many remained lifelong friends. He honored these employees by establishing the Felix Harvey Scholarship at Lenoir Community College where a scholarship was given each time an employee obtained 20 years of service with the company. Presently over 200 employees have been honored.

Harvey was a member of the UNC Business Foundation, the Educational Foundation and served as President of each in 1970 and 1975, respectively. He also served on the UNC Board of Trustees. In 2001 he was inducted into the N. C. Business Hall of Fame.

In 1993 he accepted the challenge to raise $18 million dollars for the Global Transpark Foundation in order to help recruit industries to the Global Transpark. He became the Foundation’s first President and served in this capacity for many years.

He often quoted his ideas on relationships as well as business:

  • “The important things in life are faith, family, and friends.”
  • “The simple way of life is the happiest.”
  • “Things are never as good or as bad as they seem.”

Rob Jones commented further about Mr. Harvey’s leadership. “We were so fortunate to have his guidance for the past fifteen years. The Board of Directors and Management Team look forward to continuing the Bank’s mission of providing high quality personal service, quick response to customers’ needs, and re-investment in the communities we serve.”