In 1936, when the consumer finance industry was in its infancy, Tower Loan opened its first office in Jackson, Mississippi. The concept quickly took root, and the company grew and prospered at a fast pace. After World War II, Tower made the decision to sell its offices to various employees within the company.
Jack Lee purchased 12 offices in 1972. By 1983, under Jack’s leadership, the company had doubled in size and began offering credit-related insurance through two subsidiaries, American Federated Life Insurance Company and American Federated Insurance Company.
A series of strategic acquisitions began in 1990 with the purchase of Louisiana-based Reliable Finance, adding 13 offices to the Tower family. Eagle Federal was acquired soon after, followed by four offices of Walthall Finance, then eight offices of Money Mart, Inc. In 1999, Tower purchased Gulfco Finance. The most recent acquisitions include MS Loan Center, Tico and Personal Finance.
The Ed Clark era
The Jackson, Mississippi, South State Street Office of the original Tower group was purchased by Ed and Kate Clark. Under the ownership of the Clarks, Tower Loan brokers grew from a single office to 16 offices throughout Mississippi.
Modern Tower Loan Era
In 1972, after the death of Kate Clark, Jack Lee purchased 12 of Ed Clark's offices. The 4 offices not purchased were sold to managers within Clark's company and are still in operation today. The offices purchased by Jack Lee were located in North Jackson, Clinton, East Jackson, Yazoo City, Canton, Kosciusko, Pascagoula, Louisville, Eupora, Carthage, Moss Point, and Philadelphia. In later years, the Moss Point office was merged into Pascagoula, Clinton was moved to Southwest Jackson; and East Jackson was moved to Pearl. Some of these offices operated as Tower Loan and some operated as Russell Baker Finance.
In 1983, Tower formed two insurance companies for the purpose of providing credit related insurance. American Federated Life Insurance Company was formed as a credit life insurance and credit accident and health insurance company. American Federated Insurance Company was formed as a credit property insurance company, but is also a leading workman's compensation insurance company in Mississippi. These insurance companies are now owned by Tower's parent corporation and are managed by a separate company that is not affiliated with Tower.
Purchases and Openings
After various openings and purchases, Tower grew to have 29 offices in the state of Mississippi, making Tower the largest consumer finance company based
in the state of Mississippi.
On May 1, 1990, Tower Loan made its largest acquisition. Louisiana based Reliable Finance company was sold following the death of its owner and operational leader, Grady Brockner. The acquisition of Reliable spread Tower's lending philosophy into 13 offices in the state of Louisiana.
At the time of this acquisition, the only office still operating as Russell Baker Finance was Vicksburg, Mississippi. Vicksburg's name was changed to Reliable Finance and the Russell Baker name was
Before the purchase of Reliable Finance, First Tower Corp., a holding company, was established to form an umbrella for Tower Loan of Mississippi, Inc.; American Federated Life Insurance Company; and American Federated Insurance Company. ReliableFinance Company was eventually renamed First Tower Loan, Inc. and was added to the umbrella of First Tower Corp
After various acquisitions and office openings in 1991 and 1992, Tower stood at 51 offices. On December 1, 1992, Tower Loan acquired the 9 consumer loan offices of Eagle Federal Savings Bank. This brought Tower to 60 offices.
In July 1997, Tower purchased the 4 offices of Walthall Finance. Then in October 1997, Tower purchased the 8 offices of Money Mart, Inc. In September of 1999, Tower netted 21 new offices after acquiring certain assets from MFN Financial Corporation.
In 2004, Tower made other significant assets, acquiring all of the remaining Mississippi receivables of Tico Finance Company and Personal Finance Company.
In addition to the 126 offices, Tower has a corporate headquarters in Jackson, Mississippi. Working from this base office is a team of supervisors, the company's corporate leaders, and corporate office staff consisting of the Marketing Human Resources, Legal, Data Processing and Shipping Departments.
Tower has weathered the storm of high interest rates, recessions, government regulations and truth-in-lending lawsuits. In spite of these obstacles, First Tower Corp. has continued to prosper, advance and become one of the nation's leaders among independent finance companies.