Bernard M. Trager, the founder of Republic Bank in Louisville and chairman of its holding company, died Friday after a long illness. He was 83.

Trager began his career in banking in 1952 and co-founded the industrial loan company Union Trust in 1958. After Union Trust merged with Commercial Credit of Baltimore in 1977, Trager acquired a small bank in Shelby County, Ky., and five years later founded Republic Bank & Trust Co.

Republic is now the largest bank based in Kentucky, with $3.4 billion of assets and operations in Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee and Florida. Its holding company, Republic Bancorp Inc., was founded in 1998 and Trager was its chairman at the time of his death.

Trager's son, Steven, is chairman, president and chief executive of the bank as well as president and CEO of the holding company.

Bernard Trager was also one of Louisville's most prominent business leaders, serving at one time or another as director of the region's chamber of commerce, economic redevelopment authority, Boy Scouts and Fund for the Arts. Last year, the Advertising Federation of Louisville named Trager its 2011 Louisvillian of the Year for his decades of contribution to the community.

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