HATTIESBURG — M. Ray “Hoppy” Cole will be named CEO of The First, A National Banking Association and The First Bancshares. He took over as CEO Sept. 14.
Cole is a founding director of the First National Bank of the Pine Belt (the predecessor bank of the current Laurel branch) and a director of The First Bancshares Inc. Cole joined the bank as president of the Picayune location in 2002, was named president of the banking system in 2006 and relocated his office to Hattiesburg in 2007.
Cole graduated from the University of Mississippi where he earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in business administration. He began his career with The First National Bank of Commerce in New Orleans, where he held the position of corporate banking officer. He joined Sunburst Bank in Laurel serving as senior lender, and later as president of the Laurel office.
Cole, who attended the Stonier Graduate School of Banking at the University of Delaware, has also served as secretary/treasurer of a privately-held corporation.
Davis E. Johnson will continue as chairman of the board, carrying out newly-expanded responsibilities of that office.
Commenting on the transition, Johnson said, “Market conditions and growth within our bank have brought about the necessity of separating the critical duties of the CEO and chairman of the board to ensure protection for our shareholders. The First has grown from a Hattiesburg-Laurel bank to a $475-million institution with 10 locations in eight South Mississippi cities. Separating the duties of chairman and CEO is good corporate governance.
“Hoppy has done an outstanding job as president, and I look forward to his leadership as CEO.”
BEFORE YOU GO…
… we’d like to ask for your support. More people are reading the Mississippi Business Journal than ever before, but advertising revenues for all conventional media are falling fast. Unlike many, we do not use a pay wall, because we want to continue providing Mississippi’s most comprehensive business news each and every day. But that takes time, money and hard work. We do it because it is important to us … and equally important to you, if you value the flow of trustworthy news and information which have always kept America strong and free for more than 200 years.
If those who read our content will help fund it, we can continue to bring you the very best in news and information. Please consider joining us as a valued member, or if you prefer, make a one-time contribution.Click for more info