By Cynthia M. Jeffries

Daily Journal

OXFORD - Two men wearing ski masks made off with several dead presidents Monday after holding up a bank branch in Oxford before noon.

The Union Planters Bank was among only a few banks in the state that did not close Monday in observance of President's Day.

About 11:30 a.m., two masked men walked into the branch at 1000 W. Jackson Ave. in Oxford and said it was a stickup and demanded money, said Tom Carroll, president of the Union Planters Bank in that city.

One of the men displayed a small, nickel- and chrome-plated handgun, said Oxford Police Maj. G.A. Liles.

After loading the cash into a cloth bag, the two men left the bank heading south. The amount of money taken was not disclosed.

At the time of the robbery four employees were in the branch. No customers were there, Carroll said.

Oxford Police, Lafayette County Sheriff's deputies, FBI agents and other area law enforcement officials combed the area looking for the suspects who were described only as black males wearing blue jeans, one of whom was about 6-feet tall. But the search came up with nothing.

Monday was the first time the bank had been open on President's Day, a legal, nationally observed holiday in honor of former presidents Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, both of whom had birthdays in February. Many banks and public offices close for business in observance of this day.

Carroll said the corporate office, which is headquartered in Memphis, decided in 1995 to do away with President's Day as one of its holidays. He said he could not say if being open Monday had anything to do with the robbery.

"Of course, I wish it hadn't happened," Carroll said.

Law enforcement officers do not think Monday's robbery was connected with a string of robberies that occurred in 1994 and 1995 at banks and convenience stores in Northeast Mississippi involving ski-masked bandits. A Shannon man was charged in connection with two of those bank robberies.

Monday's bank robbery was the first to occur inside Oxford within five years, Liles said. The last robbery occurred at a Merchant and Farmer's branch. A suspect was arrested within a week of that robbery.

A bank branch has been at that location since 1974. Ten years ago, that same branch was robbed. Then it was called United Southern Bank. The branch was purchased by Union Planters in July of 1995.

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