Darrin Williams Named CEO of Southern Bancorp

State Rep. Darrin Williams will take over as CEO of Southern Bancorp Inc. effective Feb. 1, the company announced Wednesday.

"My career focus of protecting consumers from the abuses of Wall Street banks has prepared me well to show how banking should and can be done to help communities and people," Williams said in a prepared statement. "I don't know of a better bank to make that point than Southern."

Williams will replace Walter Smiley on Feb. 1 as the top executive at the $1 billion-asset community development bank holding company. Smiley will remain as chairman of the board.

Smiley served as the interim CEO since the January 2011 departure of Phil Baldwin, who directed the growth of Southern Bancorp into one of the largest rural development banks in the nation.

Williams, of Little Rock, represents District 36 in the Arkansas House of Representatives. A Democrat, he had been in line to serve as Speaker of the House until the Republicans gained majorities in both legislative chambers this past November and called for a new House Speaker election.

Williams is an attorney and a principal in the Little Rock firm of Carney Williams Bates Pulliam & Bowman and a former chief deputy attorney general under Mark Pryor. He told the Associated Press earlier this month that he was considering a run for attorney general in 2014.

He graduated from Little Rock Central High School, Hendrix College in Conway, Vanderbilt University School of Law and received a master of law degree from Georgetown.

One of the nation's largest community development banks, Southern Bancorp represents a network of community banks and non-profit organizations that works to revitalize underserved Southern communities. It is based in Little Rock.

"Darrin’s financial skills, legal experience in securities and financial regulation and history of advocating for the rights of the disadvantaged in both his law practice and his political career make him the perfect choice to lead Southern Bancorp in its mission to build communities and change lives," Smiley said in a news release.

Williams will begin full-time work with Southern at the conclusion of the upcoming legislative session, and until then will work part-time, the company said.