Robert M. Hanes historical marker

Robert M. Hanes 1890-1959 (J-86)

Banker. Economic adviser to post-World War II Europe. A founder of the Research Triangle Park. Home was 50 yds. W.

Location: Stratford Road at Warwick Road in Winston-Salem
County: Forsyth
Original Date Cast: 1988

Robert March Hanes, banker and international economic adviser, was born in Winston-Salem to textile manufacturer John W. Hanes and his wife, the former Anna Hodgin. Educated at the University of North Carolina and Harvard, young Hanes had his budding business career interrupted by World War I. On his return from Europe in December 1919, Hanes joined Wachovia Bank and, within a month, was elected a vice-president. Through the 1920s he worked closely with Francis H. Fries, Wachovia president. On Fries’s death in 1931, Hanes became the bank’s president, a position he held until his retirement in 1956.

As a banking leader, Hanes rose to the top of his profession. In 1939 he became the first North Carolinian to serve as American Bankers Association president. In the 1940s he reportedly turned down chances to head Chase Manhattan Bank and the New York Stock Exchange. Hanes’s commitment was to North Carolina, a quality that repeatedly earned him the praise of state leaders. Prior to the establishment of New Deal programs, Hanes aided textile mills in the state by assuming notes called in by New York banks, thereby preserving many jobs. He organized the Business Foundation of North Carolina and served on numerous public and private boards.

A highlight of Hanes’s career was the role he played in the implementation of the Marshall Plan in postwar Europe. In April 1949 he accepted appointment as chief of the Belgium-Luxembourg mission of the Economic Cooperation Administration (ECA) with headquarters in Brussels. Six months later he was named economic adviser to the High Commissioner of West Germany and chief of the ECA mission there. In that capacity he had ambassador rank status and worked closely with Konrad Adenauer, W. Averell Harriman, Henry Morgenthau, and John J. McCloy, among others. On his return in 1951 the Winston-Salem community honored him as “Our First International Citizen.”

In 1955 Gov. Luther Hodges appointed Hanes chairman of the Research Triangle Committee. At the dedication of the first building in the park, named in Hanes’s honor, Hodges called him the “guiding and leading light” of the Research Triangle Park. In 1959 the General Assembly, where Hanes had served in the House (1929, 1931) and Senate (1933), adjourned upon receiving news of his death. Newspaper editorials praised Hanes for his public service and many accomplishments. The State magazine in 1965 called him “the most competent North Carolinian of his generation.”

Howard E. Covington Jr. and Marion A. Ellis, eds., The North Carolina Century: Tar Heels Who Made a Difference, 1900-2000 (2002)
Hugh T. Lefler, History of North Carolina, IV, 625
C. C. Crittenden et al., eds., 100 Years, 100 Men (1971)
Jo White Linn, People Named Hanes (1980)
John C. Whitaker, “Robert M. Hanes: Citizen, Banker, Statesman” (Newcomen Society, 1956)
Robert M. Hanes Papers, Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina Library, and link to digitized World War I diary:,Robert%5FMarch.html

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