Meet Our Founder
James "Jim" Ayers grew up in rural West Tennessee in the town of Parsons and early on he was introduced by his parents to the rewards of an honest day of hard work. As he grew up to become one of the state’s most successful and admired businessmen, as well as a leading philanthropist, he never forgot the lessons he learned as a young boy. In fact, he has thrived on them.
Just as Ayers has remained in constant touch with his roots, so has FirstBank – the financial services company that he nurtured from a single branch in Scotts Hill, TN, into Tennessee’s largest independently owned and operated bank, with more than $2 billion in total assets and more than 40 locations.
After building successful health care and real estate ventures, Ayers and a business partner bought Farmers State Bank in Scotts Hill in 1984. Two years later, after moving the home office to Lexington, TN and acquiring First National Bank of Lexington, Ayers changed the bank’s name to FirstBank and also became its sole owner. Since that time, the bank has grown tremendously, in terms of both assets and the impact it has had on the communities it serves.
Despite his enviable business successes across several industries, Ayers is perhaps most proud of his contributions to increasing educational opportunities for young people.
In 1999, he established The Ayers Foundation, which supports a wide range of programs and institutions, with an emphasis on education in Henderson and Perry Counties, as well as his home county of Decatur. He also established and funded theAyers Institute at Vanderbilt University, which conducts advanced cancer research, the Ayers Children’s Hospital in Jackson, TN and the Ayers Institute for Teacher Learning and Innovation at Lipscomb University.
In addition to his business interests, Jim is active in a number of civic, educational and charitable organizations. He is the recipient of the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ 2007 Philanthropist of the Year Award, the Silver Beaver Award from the Boy Scouts of America, the Joe Kraft Humanitarian Award from The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee and the 2007 Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Memphis.
Ayers was named a Leader in Banking Excellence by the Tennessee Bankers Association, and holds honorary doctorates from Freed-Hardeman University, Union University, Bethel University and University of Memphis.
A 1961 graduate of Parsons High School, Jim Ayers received a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a major in accounting from Memphis State University, becoming one of the first in his family to attend college.