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Benjamin W. Rawlins, Jr.

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Benjamin Wade Rawlins, Jr. (March 15, 1938 – September 12, 2000) was an American banking executive. He was the chief executive of Union Planters Bank for more than 16 years. Under his leadership, the bank grew from a Memphis bank with $2 billion in assets to a $34 billion financial services company operating in 12 states.[1]

Education[edit]

Rawlins attended Murfreesboro High School, graduated from Vanderbilt University in 1961, and completed a master's degree in business administration from Georgia State in 1969.[2]

Career[edit]

1962-1967: Genesco[edit]

In the 1960s, Rawlins served as administration manager for the retail division of Genesco in Nashville. Genesco was one of the nation’s largest clothing conglomerates at the time, with about 100 stores, including Henri Bendel, Tiffany, and Bonwit Teller, and nearly 50,000 employees from coast to coast. Rawlins helped develop the company’s early computer systems for tracking inventory and forecasting sales.[3]

1967-1974: First National Bank[edit]

Rawlins moved to Atlanta in 1967 to enter the MBA program at Georgia State. While working on his master's degree, he took a job with the data processing department at First National Bank, where he later became data processing manager,[3] then group vice president.[2]

1974-1982: Union Planters National Bank[edit]

Rawlins moved back to Tennessee in 1974, recruited by the new president of Union Planters National Bank to help save the bank from looming disaster after decades of management problems. Rawlins was appointed executive vice president of the Tennessee Group, which included the bank’s retail, marketing, operations, automation, and credit divisions.[2] In this role, Rawlins helped return the bank to profitability and directed changes in data processing and delivery systems that helped establish Union Planters as the most technologically advanced bank in the region.[4] In 1982, Rawlins resigned over differences in opinion about the bank’s new financial endeavors, including getting into the broker-dealer business.

1982-1983: Greater American Corp.[edit]

Rawlins served as president of Greater American Corp, a financial services company in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.[2]

1983-1984: Consultant[edit]

Rawlins served as a consultant to financial institutions in Tennessee and elsewhere in the South.[5]

1984-2000: Union Planters National Bank and Union Planters Corp.[edit]

In the fall of 1984, Rawlins returned to Union Planters as president and chief executive officer of the bank and holding company[5], after the board let his two immediate predecessors go.[6] The bank was facing a year-end loss of $18.78 million, and dividends had been suspended. Rawlins announced plans to return the bank to traditional banking services and began writing off non-traditional operations and cutting overhead.[7] Within a year, the bank posted an $11.2 million profit.[8] Rawlins then launched a program to start acquiring high-margin community banks that would provide multiple, predictable sources of income.[9]

In 1986, Rawlins entered into agreements that would add $338 million in deposits to the bank’s balance sheets with the acquisition of four Tennessee banks: The Bank of Roane County in Harriman, Merchants State Bank in Middle Tennessee, First Citizens Bank of Hohenwald, and FirstBanc of Crossville.[10]

In January 1987, dividends were reinstated. In 1988, the bank acquired two more Tennessee banks, Citizens Bank of Crossville and Pickett County Bank and Trust Company[10] and ended the most profitable year in its history, with earnings at a record $25.6 million.[11] In February 1989, Union Planters shares were listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

Rawlins extended Union Planters’ holdings into Mississippi with the 1989 acquisition of United Southern Corporation, a $345-million, multi-bank holding corporation that had grown out of the Bank of Clarksdale. Other acquisitions in 1989 included Cumberland City Bank in Stewart County, Tennessee, First National Bank of New Albany, Mississippi, Citizens Bank & Trust Company of Wartburg, Tennessee, and Steiner Bank in Birmingham, which marked the first entry of a Tennessee bank into Alabama.[10]

Rawlins expanded the bank's holdings into Arkansas the next year, with the acquisition of the $421-million North Arkansas Bancshares.[12] He spun off the broker-dealer business in 1991, and continued expansion in 1992 with the acquisition of the $822-million Fidelity Bancshares in Nashville, the $585-million Metropolitan Federal Savings and Loan in Nashville, and the $90-million Bank of Commerce in Woodbury, Tennessee.[13]

In 1993, Rawlins led the purchase of 11 more Tennessee banks, adding approximately $1.5 billion in assets. Acquisitions included Bank of Tennessee in Morristown, SaveTrust Federal in Dyersburg, Security Trust Savings in Knoxville, First Federal Savings in Maryville, FirstState Bancshares in Somerville, Farmers Union Bank in Ripley, Garrett Bancshares in Goodlettsville, Erin Bank & Trust in Erin, Central State Bancorp in Lexington, First Financial Services in Brownsville, First Cumberland Bank in Madison, and the Knoxville offices of Bank of East Tennessee. The bank also acquired Hogue Holding Company in Weiner, Arkansas, and Mid-South Bancorp in Franklin, Kentucky.[14]

Rawlins completed several more acquisitions in 1994: First National Bancorp in Shelbyville, Tennessee, Anderson County Bank in Clinton, Tennessee, and First National Bank in Clinton, Arkansas.[15] He also entered into an agreement to acquire Grenada Sunburst System Corp., the third largest financial institution headquartered in Mississippi, in a $361-million deal that significantly expanded the bank's presence in Mississippi and gave it an entrance into the Louisiana market.[16]

The acquisition of the $2.3 billion Magna Group of St. Louis in February 1998 strengthened the bank’s presence in Missouri and extended its reach into Iowa and Illinois, and the purchase of the $211 million Ambanc and California Federal Bank’s Florida branches in April 1998 deal expanded the bank’s Midwest presence and shored up its foothold in Florida.[17]

As Rawlins went on buying up smaller banks in record numbers, Wall Street analysts speculated that the bank was setting itself up to sell.[18]

Other roles[edit]

Rawlins also served as chairman of the Memphis Chamber of Commerce and sat on various boards, including the Tennessee Bankers Association, the Memphis branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, the Advisory Council of Fannie Mae, the Memphis Arts Council, and the Dixon Gallery and Gardens.[2]  He was a member of the Chancellor’s Roundtable at the University of Tennessee, Memphis and was on the Board of Visitors at University of Memphis.[2] After his death, the University of Memphis established the Benjamin W. Rawlins, Jr. Meritorious Professorship Award, one of the highest distinctions that can be given to a faculty member in the College of Communication and Fine Arts.[19]

Personal life, and death[edit]

Rawlins enjoyed reading history and biographies, playing chess, and cruising America’s waterways by boat with his family.[2]

Rawlins married Alice, his wife of 34 years, in 1966. He died of a heart attack at the age of 62 in September 2000 while exercising at his home.[1] At his death, he and his wife lived in the River Oaks area of Memphis, Tennessee. He had three grown children, and one grandson.

References[edit]

  1. 1.0 1.1 "Benjamin W. Rawlins Jr. -- Memphis Bank Executive, 62". The New York Times. September 14, 2000. pp. B11. Retrieved August 12, 2023.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Barton, Christopher (September 14, 2000). "Rawlins dies, lifted UP bank to prominence". The Commercial Appeal. pp. B2.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Fava, Holly (August–September 1995). "A personal interview with UPC Chairman Ben Rawlins". UPBeat. pp. 2–3.
  4. Longwith, p.113
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Head of Union Planters Bank Quits Amid 'Differences'". The New York Times. September 28, 1984. Retrieved March 4, 2024.
  6. Longwith, p.118
  7. Garsson, Robert M. (October 4, 1984). "New Union Planters CEO Eyes Strategy for Return to More Traditional Banking". American Banking. p. 16.
  8. Longwith, p.120
  9. Longwith, p.121
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Longwith, p.162
  11. Longwith, p.122
  12. Longwith, p.123
  13. Hansen, Bruce (May 4–8, 1992). "New UP President Plots Course as Acquisitions Build Assets". Memphis Business Journal.
  14. Longwith, p.163
  15. Longwith, p.164
  16. "Union Planters Signs Definitive Agreement to Acquire Grenada Sunburst System Corp". Bloomberg. July 1, 1994. Retrieved August 12, 2023.
  17. Gamble, Camille H. (January 9, 1998). "Union Planters to merge with City Bank & Trust". Memphis Daily News. Retrieved August 12, 2023.
  18. Elstein, Aaron (April 3, 1998). "Union Planters CEO Quietly Builds an Empire". American Banker. p. 21.
  19. "CCFA Faculty and Staff Awards - College of Communication and Fine Arts". The University of Memphis. Retrieved August 12, 2023.

Source[edit]


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