Simmons First National Corporation has come a long way in the 26 years that J. Thomas May has been a part of the institution.

Simmons First National Corporation has come a long way in the 26 years that J. Thomas May has been a part of the institution.

Simmons grew from a bank with just over $500 million in assets in 1987 — when May was named president of Simmons First National Corporation and president and CEO of Simmons First National on Bank Feb. 1 of that year — to a regional powerhouse with more than $4.5 billion in assets today.

May attributes the bank’s successes to hiring the right people for each job.

“I am proud that I used good judgment by listening and learning from my mentors, Mr. Louis Ramsay and Mr. W.E. Ayres,” May said in a recent interview. “Individually, while it might sound like a politically correct answer, I genuinely believe my greatest accomplishment was in hiring or promoting great leaders, and then knowing when to lead and when to get out of the way.

“Mr. Ramsay once said, ‘We don’t do extraordinary things, we do ordinary things extraordinarily well.’ Our leadership makes sure we have the associates to follow that guidance. I am very proud of our team and what they have accomplished over the years.”

May is justifiably proud of the job done by his SFNC Board of Directors.

“Another accomplishment was to work with Dr. Harry Ryburn and our board’s decision to name George Makris my successor, chairman and CEO of the corporation, and to name Marty Casteel as chairman and CEO of Simmons First National Bank,” May said.

“One of the most important decisions a board of directors makes is the selection of the CEO,” May said. “George Makris is a great visionary and strategist. I am very proud that he is my successor, and I believe he will create new opportunities for growth. George is a leader in Pine Bluff and I believe there are better days in front of our community and I truly know the best is yet to come for our bank and shareholders under his leadership. He is a great team player, and he has put together a superior team that will lead our excellent associates. I am proud to have had a year of transition, which was probably as good for me as it was for George. I know that I leave the company in the hands of a great management team, and I see that as one of our board’s greater accomplishments.”

A steady expansion

Simmons First announced Nov. 25, 2013, the completion of one of its latest acquisitions — Metropolitan National Bank. Consistent with the terms of the transaction announced on Sept. 12, Simmons First paid $53.6 million in cash to Rogers Bancshares Inc.

May has long spoken of the bank’s expansion plans as being guided by a philosophy of expanding its footprint across Arkansas and into neighboring states.

Simmons made its first bank purchase outside of Arkansas in May 2010 when it bought Southwest Community Bank in Springfield, Mo.

Through Simmons’ wholly owned bank subsidiary, Simmons First National Bank, the Pine Bluff-based financial agency has expanded its presence within Missouri by acquiring approximately $201 million in assets of Excel Bank from the FDIC.

“Needless to say, our team has been very busy over the last several months with the announced FDIC-assisted acquisitions in Missouri,” May said in 2012. Simmons’ FDIC-assisted acquisitions include:

• May 2010 — Simmons announced the purchase of Southwest Community Bank in Springfield, Mo., with assets of $100 million.

• October 2010 — Simmons announced a second acquisition with the purchase of Security Savings Bank in Olathe, Kan., with $480 million in assets and four locations in the Kansas City metro area, three in Salina, Kan., and two in Wichita, Kan.

• Sept. 14, 2012 — Simmons acquired $279 million assets of Truman Bank with four locations in the St. Louis area.

• Oct. 19, 2012 – The acquisition of Excel Bank represents Simmons’ fourth FDIC assisted transaction. The acquisition of $201 million in assets of Excel Bank of Sedalia, Mo., includes locations in Sedalia, Green Ridge, Lee’s Summit (Kansas City area) and Kirkwood (St. Louis area.)

The 1990s

In December of 1990 Simmons entered the northwest Arkansas market with the acquisition of branches from the failed Fort Smith-based First American Federal Savings. Simmons opened branches in Fort Smith, Springdale, Rogers and Bella Vista.

In late July of 1991 Simmons purchased two additional Fort Smith branches from the failed First American Federal Savings.

In late August of 1991 Simmons purchased all of the branches of Savers Savings and Loan in Little Rock, leading to the purchase of the Savers Bank at 28th Avenue and Catalpa Street in Pine Bluff.

Another purchase was made in late August of 1991 when Simmons bought a First American Federal Savings branch in Pine Bluff.

In February 1992, Simmons bought a Home Savings branch in White Hall from the Resolution Trust Company.

In early August 1992 Simmons purchased the Fifth Avenue building and an adjacent parking lot and several weeks later purchased the Reid-Vining building at Fifth Avenue and Main Street.

In mid-November of 1994 Simmons announced the merger of Dumas Bancshares Inc., which included the bank at Dumas and branches at Gould, Grady and Star City.

In mid-December of 1994 Simmons opened the remodeled Fifth Avenue and Reid-Vining buildings as Simmons Student Loans and Simmons North.

In late April of 1995, Simmons announced the purchase of Dermott State Bank.

Simmons purchased the former Citizens First branch at 11000 Financial Center Parkway in Little Rock in early December of 1995.

On Sept. 23, 1996; the Lake Village and Dermott banks became Simmons First Bank - South Arkansas; and the Rogers, Bella Vista, and Springdale banks became Simmons First Bank-Northwest Arkansas.

On April 22, 1997, Simmons announced that it had acquired the First Bank of Russellville and its branches as well as First Bank of Searcy and its branches.

On June 4, 1998, Simmons announced that it would construct a new bank in Fayetteville.

In late July of 1998 Simmons agreed to purchase American Bancshares of Arkansas which included facilities in Charleston, Forth Smith, Altus and Ozark.

In late August of 1998 Simmons announced that it was acquiring Lincoln Bancshares Inc. with offices in Lincoln and Prairie Grove.

In early September of 1998 Simmons announced that it would build a new bank in Little Rock.

In late March of 1999 Simmons announced the purchase of the National Bank of Commerce El Dorado along with two branches in El Dorado and one each in Strong and Huttig.

The 2000s

In late March of 2000 Simmons announced the acquisition of eight locations from the First Financial Bank Corporation of El Dorado with two branches in Conway, two in Fayetteville, two in Springdale and one each in Rogers and Siloam Springs.

On July 1, 2002, Simmons acquired the Monticello branch of the Heartland Community Bank.

On Nov. 21, 2003, Simmons purchased nine branches from Union Planters Bank of Memphis; located in Hardy, Mammoth Spring, Cherokee Village, Clinton, Marshall, Leslie, Fairfield Bay, Bee Branch and Mountain View.

On March 22, 2004, Simmons purchased the Alliance Bank of Hot Springs and three branches in the city.

On Aug. 5, 2005, Simmons opened a new branch in Conway.

In late September of 2005 a branch in Van Buren was opened.

In early December of 2005 a branch in Bentonville was opened.

In early March of 2006 the Simmons First Pulaski Heights branch in Little Rock was opened.

In early October of 2006 Simmons opened new corporate offices in Little Rock.

In mid-August of 2007 Simmons opened two purchased branches in North Little Rock.

On Nov. 26, 2007, Simmons purchased a branch in Hot Springs.

On Nov. 28, 2007, Simmons First of Northeast Arkansas opened a new branch in Paragould.