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Long-Time Bank Of Granite CEO Dies At 92

The long-time CEO of one of North Carolina's oldest and most respected community banks has died at the age of 92. John Forlines was known for his folksy, informal style during his 52 years in charge of Bank of Granite. But his business savvy also made the bank one of the most well-regarded in the country. "He gave our community bankers, especially, a national image," says Paul Stock of the North Carolina Bankers Association. "Warren Buffett frequently called Bank of Granite the 'best little bank in the country,'" says Stock. "To have that kind of profile on a North Carolina community bank is amazingly positive." In the years since Forlines retired from Bank of Granite in 2008, he was disappointed to see it fall on difficult times. Floundering real-estate loans continue to drag on the bank's bottom line. Gone are the regular shareholder dividends Forlines was proud to have paid for 50 straight years. The bank's stock - once worth close to $20 - now hovers around $1, which Forlines lamented during an interview at the bank's annual meeting in April. When asked if he thought Bank of Granite's stock would ever return to its former value, he chuckled softly and said "Not in my lifetime." He was right. The stock closed at $1.02 on Tuesday, the day Forlines died. But while the bank Forlines put on the map may be faltering, his reputation is still stellar. "We've had a lot of great community bankers but John was certainly the dean of that group," says Paul Stock of the NC Bankers Association. A memorial service for John Forlines will be held at the First Presbyterian Church in Lenoir at 11:00am on Saturday July 10th.