Southern Bancorp in Arkadelphia, Ark., has agreed to buy the Bank of Bolivar County in Shelby, Miss.

The price of the deal, expected to close by yearend, was not disclosed.

The $1.1 billion-asset Southern said buying the $17 million-asset Bank of Bolivar would jibe with its mission to invest in rural communities.

"Southern was founded to serve distressed, rural communities like these and to help create economic opportunity for those living there," Darrin Williams, the bank's chief executive, said in a press release Tuesday. "These communities lie in one of the most impoverished areas of the country."

The Bank of Bolivar's president, Lee Burke, will stay with the combined bank, overseeing his bank's current branches in Shelby and Mound Bayou.

"I'm one of the smallest banks in the state," Burke said in a phone interview Tuesday. Burke decided to sell the bank because, he said, he felt "really hamstrung" by legal lending limits that prohibited him from expanding into agricultural loans.

Southern operates 39 branches throughout Mississippi and Arkansas. The bank is a community development financial institution, aimed at serving low-income communities.

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