After leading Tri-State Bank for almost 30 years, Jesse H. Turner Jr. is preparing himself for the discovery of something new and next. (Courtesy photos)
Jesse H. Turner Jr. – back in the day doing things his way Tri-State Bank.

“Well, it was just time. Time to bring in new leadership to take us forward, time for me to move on to something else. This was just a good time to retire.”

Spoken like a man who feels that 28 years leading the Tri-State Bank is enough. Jesse H. Turner Jr. took the helm from his father, Jesse H. Turner Sr., in 1990.

“Tri-State Bank started out on the corner of Beale and Fourth. There have been four moves since then,” said Turner. Bank closings through the years has not weakened Tri-State Bank as an institution. We live in a day now where physical structures are not as important as they once were. Everything is done online. Just yesterday, I made a deposit with my cell phone.”

That’s because since Turner took over the bank in 1990, electronic features and online account management have been implemented, bringing the African-American Memphis hallmark competitive with other banks in the 21st century. For Turner, all his best efforts have been spent in building up Tri-State Bank into a strong, viable institution, poised to serve the financial needs of the next generation.

Time to move on to the next thing, indeed. During his tenure as president of Tri-State Bank, assets went from &58 million to $126 million. Turner famously led an effort among six minority banks nationwide to save historically-black Texas College. That move was straight from his father’s playbook. Build a successful institution, and strengthen African-American institutions that may be struggling along the way.

Turner Sr. was known to be involved in efforts to keep minority colleges afloat from Tennessee to Texas, along with a number of other African-American bankers across the south. Those were the glory days during the civil rights movement and in the following “I’m black and I’m proud” era.

Turner Jr. also continued the tradition of his father to use African-American businesses in bank renovations and contract operations. But now, he says, it’s time to turn the page.

Archie W. Willis, Vice-Chair of the Board, has stood right along side Turner, relishing the prosperous times and digging in to work harder in lean times.

“After the recession, every one suffered tremendous, financial setbacks, especially the black community disproportionately,” said Willis. “There have been some challenging years. The board had to make a very difficult decision in closing the downtown branch. I was driving by the other day, and the demolition was going on. I had to pull over. It was very emotional. I took out my phone and took a few pictures, just remembering what we had once been.”

But, says Willis, the outlook is bright for the future of the bank. The new president, Darius Davis, is ready. He stepped into Turner’s office at the end of March, just in time for all the celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s death. The changing of the guard at that time was symbolic for both Turner and Davis.

“I am sincerely humbled to be given the opportunity to follow in the path of those who have committed themselves to the mission of Tri-State Bank,” said Davis. “Our mission is still relevant today, and we will continue to be a leader in providing the communities we serve with financial solutions and be the transformative institution that has fulfilled dreams and changed lives for over 70 years.”

Davis is the new guy, but he is no novice. He comes to Tri-State Bank with 33 years of banking experience. He served previously as president of The Harbor Bank in Maryland, president of United National Bank, senior vice-president of Mechanics & Farmers Bank, and 10 years learning the business at Wachovia Bank and Trust Company.

The native New Yorker earned a bachelors in Economics from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro and his MBA from the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

Left in good hands, indeed. As for Turner, he didn’t retire just to go fishing.

“But going fishing is not such a bad idea. What’s next? I’m not sure, but something. It’s like a stew that’s still cooking. I don’t quite know what my next thing is. But I know that with a lot of prayer and with God’s help, there is something coming, something new and next. It’s exciting. I’m excited to open the next chapter of my life and career. I just don’t know what that’s going to be. But God knows.”