Banks C. Talley, Jr., was born in Bennettsville, South Carolina, in 1926, the son of a veterinarian. Both of his parents were from Statesville, North Carolina. In 1944 he joined the army, and he was stationed in the Philippines when World War II ended. In 1946 he began attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), where he earned a B.A. in history (1950), an M.A. (1956), and Ph.D in education (1966).
With the encouragement of William Friday (then assistant dean of students at UNC, later president of the UNC system), he became assistant dean of students at North Carolina State College (later NC State University) in 1951. He later served as coordinator and director of student activities, associate dean and dean of student affairs, and finally vice chancellor for student affairs, beginning in 1974.
Student Activities and Student Affairs advanced under Talley’s direction. At first it covered just admissions, registration, and residence halls. Eventually the student health service and the counseling center evolved. The financial aid program was initiated.
While at State, Talley helped develop the arts program because he believed students should have exposure to cultural programs. He was influential in creating the Friends of the College, which brought to Raleigh internationally prominent performers, including Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera, Beverly Sills, Arthur Rubenstein, and others.
Under Talley, NC State developed its own arts program, making it accessible to students in engineering, agriculture and life sciences, textiles, and other fields. The music and theater programs expanded, and the dance program was created.
In his positions Talley worked with student government, and he became a mentor to numerous student leaders, including Thomas Stafford, who later succeeded him as vice chancellor for student affairs, and James B. Hunt, Jr., who later became North Carolina governor. In 1977-1978 Talley he took a leave of absence from NC State to serve as the executive assistant to the governor.
In addition to his duties at the university, Talley was involved in historic preservation. In 1963 he was appointed to the Raleigh Historic Sites Commission. He was later president of the Historic Preservation Fund of North Carolina, Inc. In the early 1980s he served on the board of trustees of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and in 1983-1984 he was that organization’s executive vice president.
In 1984 Talley officially stepped down from duties at NC State to become executive director of the N.C. Symphony Society, Inc.