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Ruleville bank celebrates 100 years in business

RULEVILLE — In the 100 years Delta Southern Bank, formerly Bank of Ruleville, has been open, they’ve only closed their doors on two business days, and that was during the Great Depression.

The Ruleville Chamber of Commerce honored the bank, which ranks among the country’s oldest businesses, at the chamber’s annual banquet for the bank’s 100 years of service to the community. The bank will officially reach its 100th birthday on Nov. 19, 2002. A plaque presented by the chamber to Delta Southern chairman Lawson Holladay reads “Delta Southern Bank in Appreciation and Recognition for 100 Years of Service and Support to the Ruleville Community.”

“My dad went to work for the bank in 1940 so I wish he was here to see this,” said Holladay, an attorney with Townsend, McWilliams and Holladay, which has offices in Drew and Indianola. Holladay’s father spent 51 years of his life working at the bank. “It’s more than a business to me,” Holladay said. “I have personal feelings involved.”

Chamber president Elise Jenkins, who presented the plaque to Holladay, said it means a lot to have access to a bank in a rural area.

“It says a lot for them and for our town,” Jenkins said. “It says a lot about the bank’s leadership and our town’s stability.”

Delta Southern Bank is one of only two certified development financial institutions in the state, meaning that it operates in a depressed economic area. The bank operates branch offices in Drew, Friars Point, Lambert, Lula and Sledge.

Delta Southern president and CEO George Purcell said when Bank of Ruleville became a subsidiary of Southern Development Bancorporation (SDB) last year and combined with Delta Bank and Trust, it was to be able to offer larger loans and more services to its customers. SDB is a $350-million development banking organization with offices in Mississippi and Arkansas. Before Delta Southern was purchased by SDB, it was a $19 million bank. Today the bank has $55 million in assets.

“It was a way to retain the local board and still offer the things people want today,” Purcell explained.

Since the bank was purchased by SDB it has begun offering debit cards, and there are plans for online banking in the future. The bank already offers standard banking products such as checking, savings, CDs and loans.

Although the bank’s portfolio has grown since SDB purchased the bank last year, the mission has remained the same since the doors opened in 1902.

“Our mission is to provide financial services for people in the Delta and we do plan to expand in the future to accomplish that mission,” Purcell said. “Our motto here is this is the bank of friendly service. You get a smile when you walk in the door.”

Holladay said Delta Southern is important because of the products and services it offers the region’s citizens.

“Agriculture is still the main economic engine here in the Delta and a great part of our business is related to farming and agricultural lending,” Holladay said. “We’re trying to loan money and help people learn to save money and provide general banking services for them that people in the cities get at big banks. Many big banks don’t want to loan money on agriculture because it’s risky. And we also feel we do a service to our other citizens here who may need small consumer loans. We make a good many unsecured small consumer loans to people who really need a loan but don’t have the collateral. We think that helps the average consumer in this area.”

But the bank’s niche extends even beyond that, said Holladay.

“When you walk into our banks you know the people who work there, they know you most of the time and it’s an easier process dealing with people you know and see everyday. Our people work to help people. You know your bankers, the teller, and when you call up to ask for help you, get it.”

Purcell and Holladay said the future looks bright for Delta Southern.

“When the Ruleville Chamber of Commerce gave us an award this year for being 100 years old, I made the statement that if Ruleville was still here in 100 years our bank would still be here,” Holladay said. “I truly believe that.”

Contact MBJ staff writer Elizabeth Kirkland at ekirkland@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1042.

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