Tri-State Bank of Memphis to be acquired by Liberty Bank & Trust of New Orleans

Updated: Jun. 8, 2021 at 10:42 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The Tri-State Bank of Memphis has been around since the 1940s, serving as a financial lifeline for many African Americans.

One of their biggest supporters then and even now is the black church.

Mt. Olive CME Church in South Memphis has been banking with Tri-State for decades.

“As a matter of fact, since the inception of Tri-State, Mt. Olive was one of the first churches,” said Pastor Peris J. Lester

It’s a tradition within the Christian Methodist church and countless other black houses of worship and organizations across the city.

“Many times during the segregated period, we couldn’t get the loans for our churches and for our parishioners who needed homes,” said CME Bishop Henry Williamson.

Tri-State Bank of Memphis was founded in 1946 by Dr. Joseph E. Walker and his son A. Maceo Walker.

For many blacks in the Mid-South, Tri-State was their only hope for owning a home or a business. However in recent years, Tri-State Bank of Memphis has faced challenging times. As a small community bank, it has been difficult to keep up with the ever changing and very expensive banking technology.

“So, it really just became a matter of scale and we realized we either had to grow and grow substantially or partner with other institutions,” said chairman of the board for Tri-State, Archie Willis, III.

He says while the bank has taken on non-minority owned banking partners, such as First Tennessee, Tri-State Bank has always remained a majority black-owned bank and they wanted to stay that way.

“So, you still have a lot of mistrust in the African American community about banking in general, and you also have the situation where the regulatory environment, the credit environment, all of the things banks look at is not necessarily at the level of sensitivity when you deal with African Americans,” said Willis.

Last week, it was announced that Tri-State Bank of Memphis would be acquired by Liberty Bank and Trust Company in an all-cash transaction.

Liberty is also a minority-owned bank based out of New Orleans.

“It’s bittersweet to lose the name Tri-State, but it’s the function of the black bank that with Liberty. We have researched it strengthens us with two black banks coming together. Actually more loans, more services can be provided,” said Williamson.

We’re also being told that all employees with Tri-State Bank will be offered their jobs back even after the merger goes through, which should take place by the end of the year.

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