John F. Watlington Jr., the former chairman and chief executive officer of Wachovia Corp. who helped usher it into the modern era, died Monday. He was 88.

A spokesman for the banking company said Mr. Watlington had Parkinson's disease.

Known as a classic southern gentleman and the archetype of the old- fashioned banker, Mr. Watlington helped mold Wachovia's reputation as a conservative company.

During his tenure as CEO in the 1960s and 1970s, he introduced such modern conveniences as the computer, saw Wachovia become the first banking company in the Southeast to surpass $1 billion of assets, and presided over its listing on the New York Stock Exchange.

He was also a prominent fund-raiser and community leader in his native state.

Mr. Watlington spent his entire 43-year career at Wachovia, joining in 1933 after graduating as valedictorian from Washington & Lee University.

He was named president and chief executive officer of the bank in 1956 and became chairman in 1968 after trading the bank's state charter for a national one and creating a single holding company.

He is survived by his wife, Margaret Jones Watlington, and two children.

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