James W. 'Bill' Middelton, former bank president and investment banker, dies

James W. “Bill” Middelton, former president of the old Equitable Trust Co. who had a second career as an investment banker, died July 4 at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Towson from complications of a stroke. The Mount Washington resident was 87.

The son of farmers, James William Middelton was born in Aberdeen and raised on his family’s cattle farm.

He was a 1949 graduate of the McDonogh School.

Frederick O’Neill Mitchell, former owner and CEO of F.O. Mitchell & Bro., an Aberdeen cannery founded in the 1880s, said he and Mr. Middelton were boyhood friends.

“We went to McDonogh together and Bill went on a full scholarship. He also had a wonderful memory; when we went back for events at the school, he’d recall things that I had forgotten from years ago,” said Mr. Mitchell of Perryman.

Mr. Middelton received a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1953 from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He served as a captain in the Army Quartermaster Corps from 1953 until 1955, then entered Harvard Business School. He received a master’s degree in business there in 1957.

He began his career in 1957 at the Equitable Trust Co. and by 1961 had been promoted to an assistant secretary-treasurer. Mr. Middelton was later named a vice president.

By the time he was elected in 1979 as president of the bank and chief operating officer, succeeding H. Grant Hathaway, he had been responsible for all of the Equitable’s commercial banking activities.

Charles H. “Chuck” Hackman of Arnold worked as a vice president of lending and credit at Equitable under Mr. Middelton from 1970 to 1983.

“As bank president, he was a very smart guy, and as a banker, Bill was ahead of his time,” he said.

“When I became a loan officer it was in the wake of the 1968 riots. He wanted, through the Small Business Administration, to make loans to minority businesses,” Mr. Hackman recalled. “He felt if the bank was going to be successful, then Baltimore had to be successful. He was absolutely a leader in that, without question.”

“Bill had a tremendous personality when it came to people and … he remembered everyone he ever met. He was unique that way,” said Mr. Mitchell, a former member of the Equitable board.

“He was one of those guys everyone respected — the customers, directors, the people who worked for him, and those in the community,” Mr. Hackman said. “He had a huge network of people he knew.

“Bill was very outgoing and a great storyteller,” he added. “Every story he told had a laugh or two connected to it.”

During Mr. Middelton’s tenure, he oversaw the bank’s replacement of its venerable “Harvey Wallbanker” automatic teller machines with a new system. He told The Baltimore Sun in a 1981 interview, “Simply stated, we are taking the bank to the people.”

After stepping down from Equitable in 1983, Mr. Middelton joined Legg Mason as a senior vice president and represented the investment firm in corporate finance activities regarding banks and thrift institutions.

He later was a co-founder and chairman of Middelton, Limburg & Co., which offered corporate financial management and advisory services, then served as a director at Mason Dixon Banchshares Inc., Bank of Maryland.

Mr. Middelton then became a managing director at Evergreen Capital LLC, an investment banking firm that provided services to entrepreneurs of privately held middle-market companies throughout the Mid-Atlantic. In 2010, he was appointed to the board of CFG Community Bank in Towson.

“He went blind about eight years ago, but he was still wheeling and dealing,” said his wife of 56 years, the former Margaret Ritter.

She said they had met when she worked as a teller at Equitable’s main office.

“I think he was attracted to my black skirt and red sweater,” she said. “We went on several dates and my motto became ‘It can be done in ’61’ — that’s when we got married.”

In addition to his professional career, Mr. Middelton taught evening banking and industrial management classes at the Johns Hopkins University from 1957 to 1970.

He served as a trustee for the McDonogh School from 1971 to 1983, and was chairman from 1979 to 1983. Other chairmanships included Presbyterian Senior Services Inc., Central Maryland Chapter of the March of Dimes, and the Better Business Bureau of Baltimore.

He was a director of the Greater Baltimore Medical Center, Medical Mutual Liability Insurance Society of Maryland, Mid-Atlantic Management Services Inc. and others. He had also been on the board of Professionals Advocate Insurance Co. in Hunt Valley.

He was a member of the Baltimore Country Club, Center Club and the Engineers Club.

At the Engineers Club he was a 15-year trustee of its Garrett-Jacobs Mansion Endowment Fund. Last year in The Heritage, the fund’s newsletter, he said it had been an honor to serve on the board.

“I very much like history and Baltimore. The foundation gave me the opportunity to do both,” he said. “It was a real pleasure to work with other members ... in making the mansion, a national treasure, available to the citizens of Baltimore.”

For years, he and his wife lived on Edgevale Road in Roland Park, then moved in 2016 to the Springwell Retirement Community in Mount Washington.

In addition to being an American history buff, Mr. Middelton enjoyed writing poetry and was an accomplished watercolor artist who liked painting landscapes and towns.

He was also an inveterate fan of the old Baltimore Colts as well as the Orioles and Ravens. He enjoyed vacationing at Ocean City, N.J., and on the Eastern Shore.

Mr. Middelton was an active member of Second Presbyterian Church, where a memorial service was held Monday.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by two sons, James W. Middelton Jr. of Millsboro, Del., and Daniel M. Middelton of Ruxton; a daughter, Holly Ann Tamisiea of Wilmette, Ill.; a sister, Ann Middelton Kelly of Glen Arm; and four grandchildren.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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