On Capitol Hill, the talk is of repealing the Glass-"Steagle" Act.

Down in Ozark, Ala., Henry Bascom Steagall 2d will have none of that.

It's Glass-"Stea-Gall," he said in a telephone interview, with an equal emphasis on each syllable. And while Congress this year may chip away at the foundation his uncle and namesake helped build, he figures it won't come close to doing away with it.

"I've never heard that anyone was trying to repeal the FDIC," said Mr. Steagall, who left the Alabama Supreme Court in January and has retired to the southeast Alabama town his uncle left in 1914 to go to Congress.

He's got a point. Federal deposit insurance was Rep. Henry B. Steagall's passion, and that part of the Depression-era law is in no danger of being done away with.

It's the other pillar of the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act, the separation of commercial and investment banking, that Congress may repeal this year. And that part of the law was the work of Sen. Carter Glass of Virginia.

This leaves Thomas Glass of Lynchburg, Va., Sen. Glass' youngest grandson and former checkers opponent, feeling decidedly conflicted.

Mr. Glass is a director of Central Fidelity Banks Inc. of Richmond, and knows that Glass-Steagall repeal probably will be good for his bank's bottom line. Still, he said in a telephone interview, "I was so close to my grandfather that in a way it's like a member of the family passing on."

Not that the legislative legacy of Carter Glass will be wiped out by mere Glass-Steagall repeal. While in the House of Representatives - before serving as Treasury secretary under Woodrow Wilson and returning to Capitol Hill as a senator - Mr. Glass wrote the legislation that created the Federal Reserve system.

The younger Mr. Glass followed in his grandfather's footsteps as editor and then publisher of the family-owned Lynchburg newspapers, and as a member of the Virginia legislature, but opted not to try to make the trip to Washington. Still, there were times in the 1930s when the Washington movers and shakers who visited his grandfather's farm attributed to him great clout.

"I'd say, 'Partner, let's go outside and play some ball,'" the younger Mr. Glass recalled. "He'd say, 'All right, let's go.'"

Seeing this, New Deal bigwig and frequent visitor James Byrnes of South Carolina would remark, "Tommy, I'm going to take you back to Washington with us, because you're only one who can tell him what to do."

The younger Mr. Steagall also carries fond memories of his uncle, and approaches news of changes to the Glass-Steagall law "with some sadness." He was 11 when the bill passed. "I remember hearing it discussed by my father and friends," he says. "Of course, I didn't know the significance of it then."

The former jurist, state lawmaker, and cabinet member in George Wallace's final gubernatorial administration claims no banking expertise. But he thinks what his uncle did in 1933 was a good thing.

"At that time it was a wonderful answer to some of the banking problems," he said. "And the FDIC: Everybody concedes that that has worked ... I don't know what to say about the investment banking part of it; I'm just not close enough to the situation to know. But if I had my rathers, I would say it has served a good purpose and continues to serve a purpose."

Where Mr. Steagall does claim expertise is in how to say his and family name. And in his view, "Steagle," "STEA-gall," "Steegul," or however one chooses to transcribe the pronunciation most often heard in Washington and in banking circles, just doesn't cut it.

It rhymes with "tea ball," the elder Mr. Steagall once told Time magazine. Not that this pronunciation aid did much good. "I used to hear him say that some of his best friends in Congress called him 'Steagle,'" Mr. Steagall said.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.