BB&T's beginnings date back to 1872, when Alpheus Branch and Jefferson Hadley founded the "Branch and Hadley" merchant bank in their small hometown of Wilson, North Carolina. After many transactions, mostly with local farmers, Branch bought out Hadley's shares in 1887 and renamed the company to "Branch and Company, Bankers". Two years later, Branch, his father father-in-law Gen. Joshua Barnes, Hadley, and three other men, secured a charter from the North Carolina General Assembly to operate the "Wilson Banking and Trust Company". After numerous additional name changes, the company finally settled on the name "Branch Banking and Company". Branch remained an active member in the company until his death in 1893.
In 1900, all of Branch's banking companies consolidated as Branch Banking and Company, allowing the institution to expand its services. In 1902 a savings department was created and in 1907 a trust department was authorized; this made Branch's company the first in the state to engage in trust activities. The bank made its final name change in 1913 to "Branch Banking and Trust", or BB&T, to reflect its new activities.
BB&T sold Liberty Bonds during World War I and grew to have more than $4 million in assets by 1923. An insurance division was added in 1922, followed by a mortgage division in 1923. As banks across the nation failed as a result of the 1929 Stock Market Crash, BB&T survived; it was the only one to do so in the town of Wilson.
World War II revived BB&T and brought prosperity to the American economy. BB&T's prosperity continued into the 1960s, as mergers and acquisitions grew to company to $343 million in assets with new branches in 35 cities. By 1994, BB&T had become North Carolina's largest bank with $10.5 billion in assets and 263 offices in 138 cities in the Carolinas.
In 1995, BB&T and Southern National Bank completed a "merger of equals", giving the new BB&T 437 branches in 220 cities in the Carolinas and Virginia. The bank continued to expand nationwide through the 1990s, purchasing Fidelity Federal Bankshares, First Financial of Petersburg, Maryland Federal Bancorp and Franklin Bancorporation in the Virginia/Maryland area. In 1999, BB&T acquired MainStreet Financial Corp. of Martinsville, and Mason-Dixon Bancshares of Westminster, and further expaned into Georgia and West Virginia after purchasing First Liberty of Macon and Matewan Bancshares.
From 2000 to 2005, BB&T acquired numerous smaller banks, expanding into Tennessee, Kentucky, and even Florida. As of Dec. 31, 2005, BB&T Corporation has $109.2 billion in assets; operates more than 1,400 banking offices in 11 states and the District of Columbia; and has more than 28,000 employees.
In early 2007 BB&T acquired Coastal Federal Bank which is primarily located in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It has been one of the Carolina's fastest growing banks.