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Group fighting bank closure

Closing Delta Southern’s branch bank in Friars Point appears to be a done deal, but in doing so DSB may not be living up
to its mission.

Southern Bancorp, the parent organization of Delta Southern, formed a partnership to “bring economic opportunity to
those who need it most.”

The stockholders of Southern Bancorp represent some of the largest corporations in the nation.

Southern Bancorp’s website, dated Jan. 9, 2006, lists among its shareholders, Alltel, Arkansas Best Corporation, Arkla, the Dominican Sisters of Springfield, Ill., Fannie Mae, International Paper, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Levi Strauss, Union Planters Bank, the Walton Family Foundation, Weyerhaeuser and Winrock International. Those corporations are tied to the Bank Enterprise Award program, a federally funded program administered by the Community Development Financial Institutions of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Southern Bancorp is obliged to adhere to the Mississippi Delta Regional Revitalization Act. Section 10 of the act cites the need to provide assistance to improving minority
businesses.

There are a number of minority-owned and operated businesses in Friars Point. In keeping with its mission statement, Southern Bancorp uses deposits from its member banks to “fund development loans in distressed communities in the
Arkansas and Mississippi Delta.” Southern Bancorp acquired four former Union Planters branches in 2001- Friars Point, Lambert, Lula and Sledge.

Its Arkansas subsidiary, First National Bank of Phillips County, acquired UP
branches in West Helena and Marvell.

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The acquisition of the Bank of Ruleville, finalized on Jan. 4, 2002, merged the
Bank of Ruleville and Delta Bank & Trust to form Delta Southern Bank.
Friars Point, Sledge, Lambert and Lula, along with Clarksdale, are now under
the ownership of Delta Southern.

As one of Southern Bancorp’s associates, DSB is governed by the Community
Reinvestment Act which is monitored by the Federal Deposit Insurance
Corporation’s Division of Supervision and Consumer Protection.

The Community Reinvestment Act encourages financial institutions to loan
money in the neighborhoods where minority depositors live.
The majority of Friars Points’ 1,400 residents are minorities.

Delta Southern categorically shows the median family income for low,
moderate, middle and upper income families.

Friars Point ranks at the lowest median family income level.
When DSB President George Purcell told Friars Point businessmen Jan. 12
“We can’t save everything” he was drawing from aggregate data to support his
statement.

Purcell said for a bank to operate on sound footing, it would need a minimum of
$8 million in deposits and $4 million in loans in its portfolio.

Purcell said the Friars Point branch has approximately $1.8 million in deposits.
Charlie Craig, who built his farming business on sound business principles,
looked deeply into the figures laid out by Purcell.

“Mr. Purcell said Delta Southern’s banks have $54 million in total assets,” Craig
said.
If divided equally, Craig said, “We can’t see where all of them would have $8
million in deposits.”

Craig said he is working with other businessmen to determine how much total
assets could be pulled together to ensure that the Friars Point branch stays
open.

When asked how long DSB has been contemplating the closure of the Friars
Point branch, Purcell said “two years.”

To that statement, Craig said, “If Delta Southern has been thinking about
closing branch for two years then we should have been informed about it.”
Craig said the 90-day notice for closure began Jan. 1 and ends March 31 was
hardly enough time to allow Friars Point to offer an alternative to shutting down
the bank.

Several business leaders in Friars Point signed off on a letter Jan. 6 to the
Mississippi Department of Banking and Finance.

They said closure of the Friars Point branch bank would:

- discriminate against the nine minority businesses in this impoverished rural
Mississippi Delta community.

- leave the citizens of Friars Point without access to gasoline, hardware,
medical supplies, groceries, household items, clothing and plumbing supplies.

- discriminate against the elderly, handicapped and citizens without
transportation.

- be in direct opposition to the economic promises and economic development
goals set forth by Southern Bancorp.
Ines Polinius, executive director of Alternate Consulting, with its main offices in
Memphis, calls the Arkansas and Mississippi Delta “a microcosm in which to
observe what happens to communities when only ‘old’ money, the working poor
and unemployed remain.”

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