First Choice Bank
ďHome Owned and Operated Since 1900Ē
1900-1908: On March 30, 1900, stockholders met in Pontotoc to organize the
Merchants and Farmers Bank. The bank
opened for business on September 1, 1900, in the Salmon and Wilson Store.
Officers were J.H. Salmon, President;
L.A. Latham, Vice President; W.A. Boone, Cashier and W.T. Furr, W.W. East,
J.L. Henderson, W.L. Wilson,
George T. Mitchell, Directors. The first statement dated September 29, 1900,
showed assets to be $25,684.11, loans
1908-1933: March 12, 1908, Merchants and Farmers Bank was granted
a national bank charter with the bankís name being changed to The First
National Bank of Pontotoc. At this time, the location of the bank was moved
to the new Sawilmon Hotel on Main Street. Officers and directors were J.H.
Salmon, President; L.A. Latham, O.J. Knox, W.M. Mauldin, W.T. Furr, W.W.
East, Byron Garner and George T. Mitchell. By the 1930ís, assets had grown
to $937,727.04 and loans to $498,676.51.
During this period, the Merchants and Farmers Bank of Ecru remained a
branch office. The Bank of Toccopola merged with First National Bank. J.
Wylie Moore, Jeff T. Wilson, F.T. Furr and Mary Mabry Knox were prominent
members of the bank staff. President John Henry Salmon died in 1926. W.A.
Boone was named President and remained President until all banks were closed
by the Federal Government during the depression years. Reopening terms were
tough and firm, but the First National Bank was able to reopen in only a few
days- before any other bank in Pontotoc county. On February 18, 1931, Al
Duff became President and served until his death on April 21, 1931. (His
salary for the month and three days was $100.) John H. Salmon was elected
President in 1931.
December 9, 1933, fire destroyed the Sawilmon Hotel. All the bankís records
were saved by officers and townspeople. The vault doors were closed before
flames reached the area, thereby preventing destruction of the contents.
Temporary headquarters were located in the Supervisorís room of the Pontotoc
1933-1965: A new building was constructed on the same location,
the corner of Jefferson and Main Street. The famous bank clock was placed on
the front for everyoneís convenience. John H. Salmon, President, and the
bank staff actively participated in the industrial and agricultural
development of Pontotoc County. John H. Salmon was the charter president of
the Industrial Group composed of over 100 businesses and professional firms.
Directors included: William Jackson, Mary Knox, Roy Guthrie, Harvey
Whitworth and J.D. Doty. Assets grew from $933,000 in 1940 to over
$5,000,000 in 1965. Loans grew from $134,000 to over $2,000,000.
After John H. Salmonís death, Farrell Berryhill officially became President
on January 12, 1965. Farrell Berryhill was closely involved with the
community. He served as Chairman of the Pontotoc County Development
Association, a county-wide Chamber of Commerce, for many terms and was
active in securing many of the manufacturing facilities in Pontotoc. He was
a member of the North Mississippi Industrial Development Association for
many years and President of numerous clubs and civic organizations. He
served on various college boards and was President of Mississippi Young
Bankers Association for one year. In 1986-87, he was President of the
Mississippi Bankerís Association. He was also Chairman of Mississippi School
of Banking at the University of Mississippi and a member of numerous
Mississippi Banking Committees and three American Bankerís Association
1965-1993: During the years of Farrell Berryhillís presidency, the
first branch located on Highway 15 was opened on December 29, 1968, with
three inside teller windows and two drive-thru lanes. Since then, the
downtown bank building has been enlarged and remodeled three times. The
first renovation began on September 10, 1969. During this time, the bank
operated from a small building north of the present site. Directors were
Farrell Berryhill, Mrs. Mary Knox, Buddy R. Montgomery, Mrs. John H. Salmon,
Jeff T. Wilson and Judge J.D. Doty. Clyde Rutherford served as director from
December 1966 to May 1969. Also joining the board in July 1972 was J. Lowell
Whitworth and Larry Russell in August 1972. Richard Doty became a director
in 1983. Assets grew from $7,000,000 in 1967 to $124,337,000 in 1993. In
1987, a network computer system was put into place; therefore, manual
entries became obsolete and account information was easy to access. Also
during this time, a drive-thru facility and an elevator was installed in the
main office building. A unique tradition was begun at the bank by serving
customer appreciation lunches during Christmas open house festivities. First
National Bank was recognized as one of the outstanding small banks in the
United States and has received many national five star ratings. Farrell
Berryhill was named Mississippi Industrial Volunteer of the year for 1992.
He was instrumental in developing Pontotocís first two industrial parks. He
was also involved in approximately 90% of the recruitment and financing of
Pontotocís industry. Also, in 1992, he was voted Pontotoc County Man of the
Year. For twelve years he was on the executive committee of Tennessee-Tombigbee
River Valley Water District Board of Directors.
1993-June 29, 2015: Farrell Berryhill died on May 23, 1993, and Buddy R. Montgomery was named President and Larry Russell Executive Vice President. In 1994, First National Bank acquired the Pontotoc Branch of Security Federalís Savings and Loan. The bank assumed $7,000,000 in deposits and purchased several of the loans in the acquisition.
During this time, a swap was made with the Henderson-Boone Insurance Agency and the Security Federal building to provide future growth for the bank. With the help of Pontotoc County Citizens in 1997 a hostile take-over bid was rebuffed by First National Bank. As a result, First National Bank became the property of Pontotoc BancShares Corp, a holding company.
The holding company directors are Buddy R. Montgomery, Chairman; Larry Russell, Secretary; Michael Simon, Judge Charles Thomas, John A. Ashmore, Robert McDonald III, Julie Henry and Shane Clayton. The officers are Buddy R. Montgomery, President, CEO; Larry Russell, Senior Executive Vice President; and Julie Henry, Treasurer. The first full-service branch was opened on Monday, November 10, 1997, located at the intersection of Highway 15 Bypass and Industrial Drive.
The 5,400 square-foot facility includes five drive-thru teller stations, six inside teller stations, an automated teller machine and a safe deposit box vault. At this time, the original branch bank was closed. In the summer of 2011, First National Bank made a decision to invest in the future of Ecru by placing a new branch in the city limits. Shortly after that decision, a piece of property was purchased, and to help things get going as soon as possible, a mobile unit was brought in to serve the customers in Ecru while the new bank was being constructed at 7670 Hwy 15 North. As of October 13, 2011, First National officially opened its doors in Ecru, and on October 1, 2012, the new building was open for business as a full service branch of First National Bank of Pontotoc. The building includes two drive-thru teller stations, a drive-thru automated teller machine, and four inside teller stations.
June 30, 2015-present: On June 5, 2015, management met with the State Banking Board and our request to convert from a national bank to a state bank was approved. The effective conversion date was June 30, 2015. On this date we opened for business as First Choice Bank . This decision was given extensive thought and consideration, and certainly a process bank management felt was in the best interest of the bank for both short and long term as we pursue our goals and objectives. For over 115 years, the bank has maintained a well-respected reputation and has remained a solid financial institution. Five star ratings of the institution continue year after year. First Choice Bank is currently a member of the Mississippi Bankersí Association and the American Bankersí Association.
Continuous efforts are being made by the bank to promote growth and the enrichment of the quality of life throughout Pontotoc County. First Choice Bank ís directors, officers and employees have always been known for their friendliness, dedication, hard work and interest in the community and its endeavors. Employees have steadily increased over the years. The bank offers various educational opportunities for its employees. Many have received certificates from the American Institute of Banking, have graduated from Mid-South School of Banking and The Graduate School of Banking, have attended various seminars, and have completed extensive computer training.
First Choice Bank has long enjoyed the reputation of being home-owned and operated. Community ties are strong. The bank is committed to continue this tradition throughout its future history. The bank takes pride in-
ďServing the communities we call home!Ē