William Bullock Jr. Credit: Courtesy photo

William C. Bullock Jr., a longtime Orrington resident who founded Merrill Merchants Bank in Bangor in 1992, died on Saturday at the age of 86.

His son, William C. Bullock III, confirmed his father’s death on Tuesday.

Bullock spent nearly four decades as a banker in Maine. He also served on a number of nonprofit, professional and government boards and led a charitable foundation that distributed funds to Bangor-area organizations.

Bullock was born in 1936 and grew up in Darien, Connecticut, attending Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts.

He graduated from Yale University in 1958. That year he married Edith Swain, who survives him after 64 years of marriage. His banking career also began that year, with Bullock joining Morgan Guaranty Trust Company, now part of JP Morgan Chase.

In 1969, Bullock and his wife moved to Bangor, where he headed Merrill Trust Company’s commercial loan department before rising to become the bank’s president, chief executive officer and chair until the company merged with Rhode Island-based Fleet Financial Group in 1986.

The bank then became known as Fleet Bank of Maine, and Bullock chaired it for two years until resigning in 1988, citing philosophical differences with the bank’s out-of-state management.

Four years later, Bullock founded Merrill Merchants Bank in Bangor, buying seven former Fleet Bank offices in the area. At the time of the bank’s launch, Bullock said he wanted to return local control to Bangor banking, with financial decisions about Maine being made instate.

Bullock retired in 2004. Merrill Merchants merged with People’s United Bank in 2009.

In addition to his nearly four-decade Maine banking career, Bullock served a three-year term on the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. He also served as president of the Maine Bankers Association and on several committees of the American Bankers Association.

Bullock’s other passion in life was fly fishing.

As a child, he learned the sport from his father, and as a teenager became a Maine Guide, leading canoeing and fly fishing trips down the Allagash River for kids. Bullock traveled across four continents fly fishing, including trips to Australia, New Zealand and Argentina, as well at his summer home on Lac des Trente et Un Milles in Point Comfort, Quebec. He was a member of the Anglers Club in New York, the Megantic Fish and Game Club in Maine and the Gatineau Fish & Game Club in Quebec.

Bullock served for years on the board of directors of the Atlantic Salmon Federation, which seeks to conserve and restore wild Atlantic salmon to its native ecosystems, including in Maine rivers like the Penobscot. He also served on the boards of Maine Maritime Academy, Maine’s state retirement system and Eastern Maine Medical Center, and was chair of Gov. James Longley’s advisory council on the Maine Indian Land Claims Settlement Act in 1979 and 1980.

He also had a charitable foundation, the William C. Bullock Jr. Family Foundation, which supported a number of local nonprofits including the Orrington Historical Society, the Bangor Symphony Orchestra, Penobscot Theatre Company, the Friends of Fort Knox and the Downeast Salmon Federation.

Bullock is survived by his wife, four children — Wendy, Martha, Sarah and William —and seven grandchildren. A celebration of life service will be held at 11 a.m. on Jan. 13 at Brookings-Smith Chapel in Bangor.

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Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.