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Arkadelphia, Ark. – Southern Bancorp, Inc. (“Southern”), a rural-focused Community Development Financial Institution (“CDFI”) and holding company for Southern Bancorp Bank, today announced it had signed an agreement to acquire the Bank of Bolivar County, which operates two branches in the Mississippi communities of Shelby and Mound Bayou. Southern currently operates a branch in Shelby, but Mound Bayou will be a new community for the CDFI.

The Mound Bayou community has a rich historical significance, having been founded following the Civil War as one of the nation’s first independent African-American communities. Yet for all of its tenacity, the community has experienced the same economic challenges as others in the Delta. That situation had, until now, been exacerbated by the fact that the community’s only bank, Bank of Bolivar County, was limited in its lending ability due to size and increased regulations, which limited its ability to spur new economic opportunities.

“Southern was founded to serve distressed, rural communities like these and to help create economic opportunity for those living there,” said Southern Bancorp, Inc. CEO Darrin Williams. “This agreement to acquire the Bank of Bolivar County aligns perfectly with that mission as these communities lie in one of the most impoverished areas of our country, the Mississippi Delta. We are committed to ensuring that they benefit from the unique brand of financial products and development services we offer.”

“The Bank of Bolivar County was started by a group of businessmen and planters, including my grandfather, in 1940 with the purpose of serving the smaller communities in our county,” said Lee Burke, the bank’s current president and CEO. “I’m delighted to see that a mission-driven bank like Southern is going to step into these communities with products we were unable to offer given our small size, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to join Southern and serve my community.”

“Across the country, we’re seeing a trend of small, rural community banks closing their doors due to increased regulatory costs and declining profit margins,” said Williams. “And larger banks are usually unwilling to purchase them as they are instead focused on more profitable, urban markets. Southern, however, is different. Our mission is to focus on rural, distressed markets, because we understand that without access to responsive and responsible financial capital – the lifeblood of economic development – more businesses will close, more jobs will be lost, and ultimately, these communities will disappear. Rural America has long been the backbone of this nation, and we must protect it for this generation and the next.”

Southern Bancorp, Inc., a bank holding company; Southern Bancorp Community Partners, a tax exempt lending and development organization; and Southern Bancorp Bank, one of America’s largest rural development banks were founded in 1986 by then Governor Bill Clinton, Wal-Mart Chair Rob Walton, the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation and others who were concerned about the economic decline of rural Arkansas. All three are U.S. Treasury certified Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) collectively known as “Southern.” With $1.1 billion in assets, and 80,000 customers at its 39 branches in Arkansas and Mississippi, Southern invests in people and businesses in rural communities, empowers them to improve their lives, and helps them transform their communities.  On the web at &