RIPLEY • Bobby Martin, the longtime president and CEO of The Peoples Bank of Ripley, died Wednesday afternoon. He was 87.
Martin, who was deeply involved in the development of his beloved Tippah County, was chairman emeritus of the CREATE Foundation when he died.
Mike Clayborne, the president of CREATE, said Martin’s legacy is far-reaching and he will be greatly missed.
“Bobby Martin was one of the best and most generous people I’ve ever known,” Clayborne said. “He just deeply cared about helping people and really took a personal interest in a lot of people and lot of different of organizations. It’s incredible to me the impact he had on people across the country and especially Northeast Mississippi. He is going to be deeply missed. They just don’t make many people like Bobby Martin.”
While Martin was the face of The Peoples Bank, he was a stalwart proponent and cheerleader for the community. His interests and generosity started in Ripley and Tippah County, but they stretched across the region and state.
His position with the bank held sway, and he led the charge for Tippah County to establish a CREATE affiliate. Established in December 1997, the Tippah County TARGET (Tippah and Ripley Growing Excellent Together) Endowment Fund was formed in 1999 through a partnership with CREATE. The fund’s mission is to provide a vehicle for individuals to invest in their community and help improve the quality of life. A local advisory committee is responsible for the grant-making process and recommends how the funds are used for the community.
Martin, who was chairman of The Peoples Bank, joined the bank in 1961. His daughter, Mary Childs, has been president and CEO since 2012, positions Martin held for 42 years. His grandson, Bob Glover, is a Vice President with the bank.
“Our family has a pretty good share of stock in the bank for a long time, and it’s a family-controlled bank pretty much. We’re proud of that, but we’re here to help as many customers as we can,” Martin said in a 2018 interview.
Chris Lewellen, executive director of the Tippah County Development Foundation, said he and the organization were saddened to hear of Martin’s death.
“It literally is so hard to put into words what he and his family have meant to Ripley, Tippah County and beyond,” he said. “We lost not only a great Christian family man, but also a servant to the people of Tippah County. Mr. Bobby’s name is synonymous with The Peoples Bank. He and the leadership at The Peoples Bank were so focused on giving back to the community in too many ways to list. Mr. Bobby was a great philanthropist who believed in the pursuit of education as a key to success and has helped an untold number of students pursue continued education.
“Mr. Bobby’s impact on the economic development of Tippah County has been very successful for many years and more importantly helped to build a solid base that will serve as a foundation for many years to come. A great man, a personal friend, and a huge MSU Bulldog fan will be greatly missed. Our prayers go out to his family and the associates of The Peoples Bank.”
One of Martin’s closest and dearest friends was Vance Witt, the longtime BNA Bank president and CEO and current chairman whose tenure coincided with Martin’s time at The Peoples Bank.
Witt said he and Martin got to know each other in the 1970s as they ascended to their positions, and began traveling together to bank conventions and the industry events.
“He was like a brother to me,” Witt said. “We worked together and went places together. He had a good life, he was a good fellow, a good friend and a good banker.”
Eventually those business trips together morphed into the friends and their wives traveling together on vacations to locales across the world.
“We traveled a lot together, and I miss him ... I’m going to miss him,” Witt said. “We always talked, and I just talked to him Tuesday. He was so good for Tippah County and for the whole state really ... He was generous and helped a lot of people. The good lord blessed him and he blessed them back.”
Rev. Dr. Jody Hill, president of the Memphis Theological Seminary, wrote a book, “The Peoples Bank: A Legacy of Community Leadership,” and knew and admired Martin.
Of his passing, Hill said Martin “was the embodiment of philanthropy and community leadership. He was the most generous person I have ever known and was a true gift to our entire region of Northeast Mississippi. It is a deeply sad day for all of us who loved him.”
Arrangements for Martin are incomplete.