Board of Directors
Appalachian Community Capital
President & CEO
Donna Gambrell is President and CEO of Appalachian Community Capital, a CDFI that promotes small business development throughout the distressed Appalachia region. She serves on the boards of three national CDFIs and is a visiting scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, advising Federal Reserve leadership, economists, community stakeholders, and policy-makers on community development related initiatives. Ms. Gambrell was not only the first African American woman to hold the position of director of the U.S. Treasury’s CDFI Fund, but she was also the longest serving director in the fund’s history. During her tenure, she oversaw significant growth in the CDFI Fund as well as the creation of a number of new initiatives targeting underserved communities. Prior to leading the CDFI Fund, Ms. Gambrell served in several leadership positions within the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), including Deputy Director for Compliance and Consumer Protection, where she oversaw the FDIC’s national compliance bank examinations, as well as the agency’s community affairs, consumer affairs, and deposit insurance programs.
Clarksdale Collegiate Public Charter School
Amanda J. A. Johnson is the Founder and Executive Director of Clarksdale Collegiate Public Charter School, a college preparatory school that opened in July 2018 in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Clarksdale Collegiate was the first charter school to open in the Mississippi Delta and currently serves 450 scholars in K-5th grade and is authorized to grow to serve 675 scholars in K-8th grade.
Amanda earned her B.A. in Political Science from Rhodes College in Memphis, TN and began her career as an educator with Teach For America in 2003. She taught second grade in the Delta region of Arkansas for three years. Next, she taught sixth grade at KIPP Delta College Preparatory School. Two years later, Amanda completed a Masters in Educational Leadership from National-Louis University in Chicago, IL and founded and led KIPP Delta Elementary Literacy Academy (KIPP Delta ELA) for four years. After leading KIPP Delta ELA, she spent two years co-leading the Fisher Fellowship with the KIPP Foundation and spent a year and a half as Director of Curriculum and Instruction for KIPP Delta Public Schools. Amanda completed the Building Excellent Schools Fellowship in preparation to open Clarksdale Collegiate Public Charter School and is currently seeking an EdD in Learning and Organizational Change from Baylor University in Waco, TX.
Amanda was initiated into Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated in Spring 2004 through the Helena Alumnae Chapter. She has been a member of Clarksdale-Marks Alumnae Chapter for the past 7 years. She has served as the Social Action Chair and Jabberwock Chair for two years and has represented the chapter at Delta Days at the MS State Capitol. Her chapter awarded her a Community Trailblazer award in education in 2020.
Amanda is an active member in the community as an educational leader and leads Clarksdale’s only active Girl Scout Troop #30302. She uses her experience as a Girl Scout Gold Award recipient, the highest honor a Girl Scout can receive to lead the 60 member Girl Scout Troop. She also serves on the board of Spring Initiative and Southern Bancorp Community Partners. Amanda was named Citizen of the Year in 2020 by the Iota Omicron Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.
On a personal note, Amanda is married to Sanford Johnson and has two fierce daughters, Lorelei and Ava Jae.
President & CEO
Ray Christman resides in Naples, Florida. He was elected to the Naples City Council in April 2019. He is also the President and CEO of RPRC Consulting, providing consulting and advisory services to community banks, non-profits, foundations, and state and local governments.
Ray’s career has included work in urban and economic development in his home town of Pittsburgh. He served as head of the City’s Urban Redevelopment Authority, as Secretary of Commerce for Pennsylvania, and as President of the Pittsburgh Technology Council.
Ray subsequently worked in the banking industry serving first as chairman of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh and then as President and CEO of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta. He later helped establish and lead Hamilton State Bank in Georgia, which grew to become one of the ten largest banks in the state before its sale in 2018.
Ray has a long history of involvement in the conservation field, including serving as Senior Vice President of the Trust for Public Land. He helped found Appalachian Community Capital (ACC), which provides capital to CDFIs located in the Appalachian Region, and continues to serve on ACC’s board. He has served on the board of Southern Bancorp Community Partners since 2017.
John C. Edwards
Helena-West Helena/Philips County Port Authority
VP of Commercial Business Development
John Edwards serves as General Counsel & Economic Development Director for Helena-West Helena/Philips County Port Authority in Helena, Arkansas. He has considerable experience in rural economic development. Mr. Edwards served in the Arkansas House of Representatives from 2008 – 2015, and previously served as an aide to former United States Senator David Pryor, where he was responsible for working with agricultural related issues. In 1996, he was appointed Arkansas State Director of USDA Rural Development, the lead federal agency providing funding for rural housing, businesses, and water systems. Edwards is a veteran of the Iraq War and was part of a National Guard unit that provided relief to New Orleans residents after Katrina. He left service in 2012 as a Colonel.
HCI CPAs & Advisors, PLLC
Sarah Gentry is a Certified Public Accountant and Principal with the Little Rock accounting firm of HCJ CPAs & Advisors, PLLC where she focuses on audit and tax services. A 2002 Summa Cum Laude graduate of Henderson State University, Gentry also received her MBA from HSU. In addition to her service to Southern, she currently is a member of both the Arkansas Society of Certified Public Accountants and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
Aaron E. Henry Community Health Services, Inc.
Community Foundation of NW Mississippi
Co-Incorporator, President & CEO
Tom Pittman was co-incorporator of the Community Foundation in 2002 and served as its first volunteer chairman before becoming its first full-time president and CEO in 2004. He oversees the growth and operations of the foundation under the direction of the Board of Directors. Previously, he was publisher and editor of the DeSoto Times after serving as general manager and editor of the Daily Journal in Tupelo. During that time, he served as president of the Mississippi Press Association and on the National Newspaper Leadership Council.
Tom serves on the boards of several prominent statewide efforts such as chairing the Mississippi Association of Grantmakers, Entergy Mississippi’s advisory board and a director of Mississippi Today, the state’s non-profit digital news source. He was a charter board member for the DeSoto Arts Council, DeSoto Health and Wellness Center, and the North Mississippi Health Foundation. He previously served on the board of Directors for the CREATE, the community foundation for northeast Mississippi. A native Mississippian, he earned degrees from the University of Mississippi in sociology and Emory University in theology. He is married to Cyndi and has four children.
Mary Gay Shipley
That Bookstore in Blytheville
Executive Vice President
Clark Timberlands LLLP
Clark Tennyson manages and oversees the harvesting and reforestation of his family’s timber and real estate holdings located in eight counties in southern Arkansas. Born and raised in El Dorado Arkansas, Clark was active in various community organizations and achieved the rank of Eagle Scout in 1999. He graduated from Ouachita Baptist University in 2005 where he earned a degree in Business Administration and Marketing. After graduation Clark was employed by Summit Bank where he held several positions including branch manager. In 2010 he left Summit Bank to take a position in his family’s business.
Clark has served since 2012 as a trustee for The Ross Foundation, a private foundation headquartered in Arkadelphia, Arkansas which manages more than 64,000 acres of timberland for philanthropic purposes.Clark is a graduate of the Hull Fellowship program of the Southeastern Council of Foundations. He also serves as a board member for the Arkansas Forestry Association and the Arkadelphia Chamber of Commerce. Clark has served on the Central Arkansas Advisory Council for The Arkansas Nature
Clark has been married to his wife, Katie, for over 10 years and they have a son named Thomas. They reside in Arkadelphia and are members of First Presbyterian Church, where Clark serves as a church elder.
Darrin L. Williams
Chief Executive Officer
Southern Bancorp, Inc.
Darrin Williams’ career is a unique combination of law, business, and politics. Currently serving as the CEO of Southern Bancorp, Inc., Williams oversees the strategic direction and operations of each of Southern’s three Community Development Financial Institutions: Southern Bancorp, Inc., a bank holding company; Southern Bancorp Bank, one of America’s largest rural development banks; and Southern Bancorp Community Partners, a 501(c)(3) development finance and lending organization – collectively known as “Southern.”
Southern was founded nearly thirty years ago when some of the nation’s most notable political, business and philanthropic leaders, including Bill Clinton, Rob Walton, Muhammad Yunus and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation to name a few, came together around a central idea – that the economic challenges facing many underserved communities could in part be addressed through the creation of a values-based financial organization focused on providing these services to those who most need them. With an initial investment of approximately $10 million and a mission to create economic opportunity, Southern has grown to become one of the most effective and largest community development organizations in the United States, as well as a model for an entire industry of mission-focused financial institutions known as Community Development Financial Institutions. Southern Bancorp today is a $1.2 billion asset organization with over 80,000 customers and 43 branches located primarily in underserved markets in the Mid-South.
Prior to leading Southern, Williams served as managing partner at the law firm of Carney, Williams, Bates, Pulliam & Bowman, PLLC, where he focused on representing institutional investors and consumers in class action litigation against some of the nation’s largest publicly traded companies. Williams also served three terms of elected office in the Arkansas House of Representatives (2008-2013), serving as Speaker Pro Tempore of the 89th Arkansas General Assembly. As a lawmaker, he was recognized nationally for his legislative accomplishments, including being named a Champion of Small Business by the National Capital Coalition, an Aspen-Rodel Fellow in Public Leadership by the Aspen Institute, and listed as one of 12 state legislators from around the country to watch by Governing Magazine. Williams received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Hendrix College, his Juris Doctor from Vanderbilt University School of Law, and his Master of Laws degree in Securities and Financial Regulation from Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C.