Walter Massey, president emeritus of Morehouse College, was named Bank of America chairman today, replacing Ken Lewis as head of the bank’s board of directors.

Massey, 71, has been a Bank of America director since 1998.

Lewis retains his chief executive title but was removed as chairman after shareholders narrowly approved a proposal to split the two jobs. The measure passed with 50.3 percent of the vote at the company’s annual meeting.

All 18 board members, including Lewis and lead director Temple Sloan, were re-elected.

Massey is a physicist who served as a scientific adviser to the Bush administration.

He was president of Morehouse, his alma mater, from 1995 until June 2007. Before joining Morehouse, he was provost and senior vice president for academic affairs for the University of California system and director of the National Science Foundation.

He also served as director of Argonne National Laboratory. Earlier in his career he held research and teaching positions at the University of Illinois, Brown University and the University of Chicago.

Born and raised in Hattiesburg, Miss., Massey graduated from high school at age 16. He earned a bachelor of science degree in physics and math from Morehouse in 1958 and his master of science and doctorate in physics from Washington University in St. Louis in 1966.

Lewis’ ouster as chairman was not altogether surprising. Angry shareholders had been pushing for months to separate the chairman and CEO titles. Lewis became a target for disgruntled shareholders after the controversial purchases of Merrill Lynch & Co. and Countrywide Financial.

The bank’s stock dropped nearly 70 percent after the Merrill Lynch deal, which led to the shareholder proposal to split the chairman’s job from the chief executive’s.

The announcement came more than three hours after the bank’s annual meeting ended. The margin was so close that officials decided to recount ballots, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Click here to read more about changes at Bank of America.

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