Edwin T. Holland, 97, a Northern Virginia businessman and retired banker, died of cardiac arrest Sept. 26 at his home in Kilmarnock, Va.

Mr. Holland was the founder, former president and chairman of the board of First Virginia Banks Inc. of Falls Church, and he was a major player in the Northern Virginia banking industry from 1948 until 1974, when he retired and moved to Virginia's Northern Neck.

He began his career in retail banking in 1948, when he became president of Old Dominion Bank. During the 1950s, he directed and oversaw the merger of Old Dominion with other Northern Virginia banking and financial institutions to form First Virginia Bank, which in 1957 was organized into its present structure as First Virginia Banks Inc., the first bank holding company to be established in Virginia.

Since then, First Virginia has grown into a regional financial services institution with offices and affiliates throughout Virginia and in Maryland, Tennessee and other mid-Atlantic states.

In this period, Mr. Holland expanded consumer credit, lengthened hours of operation and aggressively marketed banking services. When competitors complained this was undignified for a banker, he answered, "Dignity isn't always profitable."

He was born in Norfolk, graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in civil engineering and sold road machinery in Ohio before moving to the Washington area and settling in Northern Virginia in 1936.

During his early years in the Washington area, Mr. Holland did consumer financing and real estate development.

Mr. Holland, a longtime resident of Arlington, was active with business groups supporting improvement of Arlington's public schools in the 1950s. In 1957, he testified against action by the Virginia legislature to abolish the popular election of the Arlington School Board, taken in response to the board's support of the Supreme Court decision mandating desegregation of the public schools.

In 1961, Mr. Holland was named to the Advisory Board of the National Capital Transportation Agency, the precursor to Metro.

Mr. Holland was an enthusiastic boater, a member of the U.S. Power Squadron and a teacher of navigation.

His marriage to Elizabeth M. Holland ended in divorce in 1974. His second wife, Audrey M. Holland, died in 1982.

Survivors include his wife of 15 years, Enid M. Johnson Holland of Kilmarnock; their daughter, C. Lynn Holland of Kilmarnock; three children from his first marriage, Sallie H. Corish and Edward M. Holland of Arlington and Virginia H. Brown of McLean; a sister, VaDare H. Buck of Fairfax; 14 grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.