Banker closing out after 49-year career

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 31, 2004

[12/31/04]PORT GIBSON After 49 years in banking, Donald Carter will leave the confines of his oak-paneled office at State Bank & Trust for the last time today.

Carter, 68, is retiring as city president of the institution, formerly known as Mississippi Southern Bank.

His successor has not been announced.

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A Claiborne County native, Carter graduated from Port Gibson High School and took business classes in Jackson before taking a job sorting checks for First National Bank of Jackson, now Trustmark.

“I never had any intent of coming back to Port Gibson,” he said. But when his father fell ill, Carter took a job at Mississippi Southern Bank so he could take care of his dad. On the day he began his new job in his hometown, his father died.

“If that had happened a few weeks before, I might never have come,” Carter said.

Beginning at Mississippi Southern, as he put it, as a “general flunkie,” Carter worked in nearly every job at the bank as he steadily worked his way up the bank’s hierarchy.

According to James Beesley, chairman and CEO of the bank from 1989 to 2003, Carter will be hard to replace.

“When I got here, I pretty much turned the operations of the bank over to him,” Beesley said.

Carter’s rapport with customers is what makes him a good banker, Beesley said.

“He makes himself available to all the customers at the bank,” Beesley said.

The biggest change in the banking industry, he said, is the increased use of credit and debit cards.

“You can do almost everything without touching cash,” Carter said.

Such changes have made personal service in banking even more important, especially with State Bank’s many elderly customers, he said.

While Carter said he looks forward to a relaxing retirement, he will miss having daily chats with customers. And, for many customers, Carter’s absence will also be an adjustment. One older lady who can no longer read brings her mail to him to make sure she doesn’t miss paying a bill, he said.

Performing services outside the job description of banker is what makes community banking rewarding, he said.

“You just have to win the trust of your customers,” Carter said.

Carter said he’ll stay busy in retirement. “I’ll start a list that my wife’s made up,” he said.

An avid gardener, Carter also plans to spend time in his back yard, tending his day lilies. He’ll also visit with his two children, one of whom lives next door in Port Gibson, and four grandchildren, two of whom also live in Port Gibson.