R. Molitor Ford, the new president of the Tennessee Bankers Association, once quit banking to work on his family's cotton farm in eastern Arkansas. After a year and a half, however, the banking life called again; in 1983, Mr. Ford purchased a $98 million-asset bank in Paris, Tenn. He has been chairman and chief executive of Commercial Bank and Trust Co. ever since, building it to $170 million of assets and four branches in western Tennessee. Before his farming interlude, Mr. Ford worked for 18 years at $11 billion-asset First Tennessee National Corp. His experience at a big institution as well as a small one should serve him well as head of one of the few bank associations in the country that counts thrifts as well as banks among its members. The controversy over the bank and thrift insurance funds will be one topic challenging the association's cohesiveness this year.

Q.: Why take a job like this at a time like this?

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