Bank of Mississippi, Inc. History

Address:
One Mississippi Plaza
Tupelo, Mississippi 38802
U.S.A.

Telephone: (601) 680-2000
Fax: (601) 680-2261

Wholly Owned Subsidiary of BancorpSouth, Inc.
Incorporated: 1876 as Raymond, Trice & Company
Employees: 1,195
Total Assets: $1.7 billion
SICs: 6022 State Commercial Banks

Company History:

The Bank of Mississippi, Inc., is one of the strongest and most influential chains of state banks in America's deep South. Since statewide banking was first permitted in Mississippi in 1986, the bank has opened more than 80 branches from Biloxi to Vicksburg. The Bank of Mississippi also has very strong ties to local communities throughout the state; over 85 percent of the bank's shareholders are residents of Mississippi, and bank management has designated community programs, such as community college scholarships and educational loans to students, a high priority.

Mississippi was the heart of the Confederacy during the American Civil War. By the end of the war the state was in economic chaos, particularly since a Union Army blockade had prevented supplies of food and necessary materials from reaching the state and its economic lifeline, the cotton trade, had been brought to a complete halt. In order to rebuild the local economy, the Mississippi state legislature voted to grant a rare perpetual charter to Raymond, Trice & Company, the forerunner of the Bank of Mississippi, on March 31, 1876. Established in the small town of Verona, the bank was situated in the back room of a store.

Raymond, Trice & Company immediately began to grant loans to landowners to expand their operations, launch new enterprises, and buy horses and equipment, and to the community to fund schools and rebuilding projects. By 1886 the bank was granting loans and doing business over a wider and wider area, and its shareholders decided to move the bank to Tupelo in order to take advantage of the better communications between the town and rural communities. The company was renamed the Bank of Lee County, and shortly afterward the Bank of Tupelo.

The Bank of Tupelo grew with the state of Mississippi. The states that had seceded from the Union during the Civil War were nearly healed by the turn of the century, and cotton fields all over Mississippi were yielding profitable crops. The Bank of Tupelo merged with the Bank of Nettleton in 1904 and with the Fulton Bank in 1906, providing the Bank of Tupelo with a stronger presence in northeastern Mississippi. The bank continued to open offices, and by the end of the 1920s the Bank of Tupelo was regarded by many of its customers as the most stable financial institution in Mississippi.

Then the Great Depression swept across the United States. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt completely revamped the banking industry, attempting to establish policies that would ultimately reinvigorate U.S. financial institutions, but many banks went bankrupt before the new policies could be implemented. The Bank of Tupelo, however, with a conservative loan program and cautious management, was able to survive the worst years of the Depression.

In addition to the problems caused by the Great Depression, the Bank of Tupelo also confronted challenges specific to the southern United States. The place of agriculture in southern life began to diminish in importance during the mid-1930s, as individual cotton farms gave way to large combines. At the same time, the region was faced with inadequate rural housing, the regular flooding of the Mississippi, which displaced thousands of people, and the growing and obvious need for serviceable roads and highways. Management at the Bank of Tupelo regarded all of these problems as part of the bank's responsibility to address. Loans were made to rebuild homes destroyed by floods, and the bank joined forces with other financial institutions to help fund adequate housing for families in rural areas of northeastern Mississippi.

With the coming of World War II, the Bank of Tupelo sold war bonds to help finance the U.S. war effort. After the war, in pursuit of a stronger regional economy, the Bank of Tupelo joined forces with other Mississippi financial institutions, local development organizations, and such federal agencies as the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Tennessee Valley Authority. These groups laid plans for a strong economic foundation across northeastern Mississippi. The Bank of Tupelo helped cultivate the growth of small business ventures, retail stores, utility companies, and local school systems. By 1949 the bank was expanding once again, and acquired both the Merchants & Farmers Bank of Ecru and the Bank of Sherman.

For 30 years the Bank of Tupelo had been guided by President J. P. Nanney, whose leadership propelled the bank from the status of a local institution to a regional powerhouse. His cautious financial policies, combined with his commitment to developing an industrial base for the area (he was twice elected mayor of Tupelo), were in large part responsible for the bank's success. By the early 1950s Nanny had hired J. C. Whitehead, Jr., as his hand-picked successor. Whitehead, who had graduated from Mississippi State University and whose father had been president of the Fulton Bank since the early 1920s, began his career at the bank as a trust officer. When Nanney died in 1959, Whitehead became president of the bank.

During the 1960s, under Whitehead's leadership, the Bank of Tupelo entered a period of unprecedented growth. One of Whitehead's first priorities was to increase the bank's loan/deposit ratio. In just a few short years, Whitehead had increased the ratio from 21 percent to an impressive 60 percent. This development provided the bank with the capital necessary to make loans to encourage the growth of various industries in northeastern Mississippi. At the same time, Whitehead proposed that the bank change its name to better reflect the concerns of the state as a whole. After exhaustive discussion among the bank's managers, the name "Bank of Mississippi" was finally chosen.

The bank continued to prosper in the 1970s, initiating acquisitions and mergers that resulted in many new financial associates. Customer services were upgraded and communication among the bank's many offices was improved. Most importantly, the bank sharpened its focus on business and industrial development. The bank joined forces with the Community Development Foundation, the Lee County Soil & Water Conservation District, and the Tombigbee River Valley Water Management District to encourage local entrepreneurs and attract national companies. The results of the consortium's efforts were dramatic, yielding economic gains throughout the state. Employment and wages increased, the tax base expanded, and citizens across the state gained greater access to a wider variety of services and products.

One of the most important of the bank's many activities during this period was its involvement in and support of the state of Mississippi's educational system. The bank supported programs within the public school system, encouraged and helped to develop curriculum at the community college level, provided loans and scholarships to students attending state universities, and contributed to educational programs at leading colleges and universities throughout the state.

Until restrictions were removed in 1986, Federal law prohibited statewide banking, with bank activities constrained to a one-hundred mile radius from a bank's main administrative headquarters. With the repeal of restrictions, the Bank of Mississippi expanded its presence across the state. Under a new president, Aubrey B. Patterson, Jr., the Bank of Mississippi merged with First Mississippi National. This merger resulted in the bank's gaining greater access both to the Gulf Coast and Jackson markets, and provided the bank with the largest market share in the region of Hattiesburg. A short time later, the bank acquired both the American Bank of Vicksburg and the Bank of North Mississippi. With these acquisitions, the Bank of Mississippi was able to serve communities from the Gulf of Mexico to the Tennessee state border.

By 1990 the Bank of Mississippi had grown to more than 70 offices and branches operating in more than 40 cities and towns. A new administration and operations facility was constructed for the bank's main headquarters in Tupelo, and a highly sophisticated telecommunications system between branches was put in place. On a daily basis, deposits were collected by air transportation and put into the Federal Reserve Bank located in Memphis.

In the early 1990s the Bank of Mississippi was acquired by BancorpSouth, Inc., a large regional banking institution. The terms of the acquisition stipulated that the Bank of Mississippi would remain a relatively autonomous financial institution. Within a few years, with the financial help of BancorpSouth, the Bank of Mississippi had expanded its network of branch locations in the state.

Further Reading:

  • "BancorpSouth in Accord to Add Wes-Tenn Bancorp," New York Times, June 17, 1995, p. 19.
  • "BancorpSouth's Net Income Surged 31%," American Banker, May 24, 1995, p. 9.
  • Cline, Kenneth, "Strong Nonbank Units Help Diversify the Earnings System" and "A Tupelo Honey," American Banker, October 12, 1994, p. 4.
  • ------, "Loan Growth Boosts 3 Southeastern Regionals," American Banker, October 17, 1994, p. 8.
  • "LF Bancorp to Be Acquired in $29.3 Million Stock Swap," Wall Street Journal, August 17, 1994, p. B4.
  • Patterson, Aubrey, Bank of Mississippi, Inc., Newcomen Society: New York, 1990.

Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 14. St. James Press, 1996.