An obituary in yesterday's editions of The Washington Post about Lewellyn A. (Lew) Jennings, 76, a retired board chairman of Riggs National Bank who died May 23, omitted the cause of his death. He died of a stroke.
Lewellyn A. (Lew) Jennings, 76, who as board chairman and chief executive officer of Riggs National Bank from 1963 to 1973 was the District's premier banker, died May 23 at the Carriage Hill nursing home. He lived in Chevy Chase.
Mr. Jennings became board chairman and chief executive of Riggs, the city's largest commercial bank, on July 1, 1963. Retiring from those posts 10 years later, he continued to serve on the bank's board of directors until resigning in 1979.
The man who preceded him as chairman, Robert V. Fleming, had led Riggs for 37 years and picked Mr. Jennings as his successor. At the time, he was executive vice president of Republic National Bank in Dallas, and had completed a distinguished government career in which he rose from bank examiner to first deputy comptroller of the currency.
Riggs had long been considered Washington's leading bank, not only because of its total assets, but also because it was the bank for the city's leading businesses. Mr. Jennings kept it that way. During his years at the helm, Riggs remained the city's leading bank and moved into the modern banking age. Its deposits increased from $543 million to $1,006 billion.
Mr. Jennings not only expanded the number of bank branches, but moved Riggs into the international banking trade with the establishment of overseas offices. He was interested not only in banking's blue-chip business accounts but in everyday commercial accounts. In 1967, Riggs acquired the old Central Charge Service, a bank card business.
Mr. Jennings was a self-made man. He was soft-spoken, friendly and dignified, with an almost courtly manner, and took success in stride. He told The Washington Post in 1966 that the one thing that embarrassed him was the bank's much-advertised slogan of the time, "The Bank That Likes To Say Yes." He said that he had to say "no" more than he cared to.
When he retired, Mr. Jennings was succeeded as chairman by the bank's president, John M. Christie. Vincent C. Burke Jr. was named bank president and chief administrative officer.
Mr. Jennings was born in Birch Tree, Mo., and reared in Silver Creek, N.Y. He began his banking career when a neighbor, who was president of Silver Creek National Bank, gave him a part-time clerical job while in high school. Mr. Jennings remained at the bank for five years before becoming assistant national bank examiner in New York in 1929.
He then rose through the ranks. During the 1930s, he was an examiner of foreign branches of national banks in Europe, South America and the Caribbean. In 1941, he was named assistant chief national bank examiner, with headquarters in Washington.
Mr. Jennings was a financial intelligence officer with the Army in Europe during World War II. He rose from private to captain and was awarded the Legion of Merit. He later worked for occupation forces in Germany, and for the Navy in Guam and Samoa. Returning to private life, he became first deputy comptroller in 1952, and resigned from that post to become an officer of Republic National Bank in Dallas in 1960.
He was active in professional organizations, having been chairman of the federal legislative committee of the American Bankers Association, and held offices in the Association of Reserve City Bankers, the D.C. Bankers Association, the Foundation for Commercial Banks and the Washington Clearing House Association.
He also devoted time to civic and charitable work. He had been chairman of the Federal City Council, and had served on the boards of directors of the D.C. Chapter of the American Red Cross and the International Eye Foundation, and the United Givers Fund. He was a member of the executive committee of Project Hope and served on the president's council of Georgetown University and the board of trustees of George Washington University.
He had been a member of All Saints Episcopal Church in Chevy Chase.
Survivors include his wife of 41 years, the former Virginia Lee Campbell, of Chevy Chase, and a sister, Mrs. Kent Christie of Buffalo.