Borrower, Lender Travails Visit Chambers Bank Family

by George Waldon  on Monday, Oct. 27, 2008 12:00 am  

"The absorption rate is a little lower than we would like, and it's going to be another year before it really turns around," he said. "I don't want to say doom and gloom, but it still has a ways to go to improve."

Chambers said tightened loan policies are the stance of the hour as the real estate markets seek equilibrium in northwest Arkansas.

"We're not out there aggressively making loans," he said. "It was unbelievable how fast things were moving. It was just so good you couldn't make a mistake.

"We've somewhat retreated from the market because of nerves. We've always had over 10 percent capital. My dad had that rule back when he handed me the hammer in 1988."

Total assets of Danville State Bank stood at $10 million when Johnny Chambers joined as an assistant vice president in the early 1970s. Known as Chambers Bank today, the operation reflected the merged operations of several other banks.

Among these are Bank of Amity (Clark County), where a controlling interest was acquired for $3 million on March 18, 1993, and Scott County Bank in Waldron, a new bank charter that Johnny Chambers pioneered in 1986.

The Family Business

Johnny Chambers' family entered the banking business in 1930 when his namesake grandfather converted the Bank of Belleville into Danville State Bank and moved the business into the former home of Yell County Bank, a casualty of the Great Depression.

Chambers entered the northwest Arkansas market during the late 1990s with investments in the Bank of Elkins (Washington County) and Community Bank of North Arkansas in Fayetteville.

The two lenders later merged to become today's Chambers Bank of North Arkansas. Chambers is in the process of merging the Fayetteville operations under the charter of the flagship bank in Danville.

Chambers led an unsuccessful play in 2004 to acquire controlling interest in First Community Bank of Crawford County in Van Buren. However, regulators ruled the stealth effort violated prohibitions for buying a newly chartered bank.

In the end, the Federal Insurance Deposit Corp. collected $432,000 in fines from Chambers and his associates: Jacob Perryman "Perry" Mikles III of Booneville, Everett Emmett "J.R." Young Jr., Rick Leon Millsap, CEO of Petit Jean Poultry in Danville, and Danville businessmen Thomas Roy Akin and Bobby W. Stephens.                            



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