Taylor, 79, suffered from Parkinson's disease. His wife, Robyne, told the Los Angeles Times that he died Feb. 23 at his home in Rancho Mirage, Calif.
The son of a Continental Illinois executive, Taylor rose through the ranks. After serving as treasurer and vice chairman, he became chief executive officer in March 1984.
At the time, Continental had a portfolio of toxic debt, including loans taken over from Penn Square Bank of Oklahoma City.
"When other people got flustered or upset as the crisis grew, David was always the voice of calm, the voice of reassurance," said J. Andrew Spindler, Taylor's executive assistant and now head of Financial Services Volunteer Corps.
As part of the old management team, Taylor's tenure was short. He went on to hold top executive jobs with Irving Trust and Chemical Bank, losing both during mergers.
His wife, describing her husband as "humble and unpretentious," said his stories about his career would end: "And guess who got the job? The other guy."