This day in BLACK History

Featured, History & Politics

October 20, 1898:

On this date, the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company was the first African American owned insurance company.

Since its beginning in 1898, North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company has grown to become one of the nation’s most widely-known and successful business institutions. It is the only insurance company domiciled in North Carolina with a charter dated before 1900. North Carolina Mutual is the oldest and largest African American life insurance company in the United States.

Founders and Early Builder:

John Merrick – the first dreamer and leader. A former slave, who learned to read and write in a Reconstruction School. He later became a brick mason in Raleigh, North Carolina and learned the barber trade during a lull in construction. Subsequently, he moved to Durham owning several barber shops, some of which catered to wealthy white men. He was involved in real estate and the Royal Knights of King David, a fraternal benefit society. It was there, Merrick got the notion of life insurance from the very popular mutual benefit societies developing in the south. A seed had been planted. Merrick was born on September 7, 1859 and died August 6, 1919.

Dr. Aaron McDuffie Moore – A humanitarian. Born September 6, 1863 of free parents. He taught high school for several years and attended medical school at Shaw University’s Leonard Medical School. He was the first Black person to practice medicine in the city of Durham. Dr. Moore was the Company’s first treasurer and wielded wide influence in the city. He was instrumental in starting other enterprises such as a drug company, Lincoln Hospital and a library. He became president of the Company following Merrick’s death in 1919. He devoted full time to working for North Carolina Mutual until his death in 1923.

Charles Clinton Spaulding – The builder. Born in Columbus County, North Carolina, August 1, 1874. He came to Durham at age twenty and attended high school graduating in 1898. He began his career as a part-time agent with the Company and went on to become general manager in less than a year. Spaulding served in various capacities, i.e., as agent, clerk, janitor and general manager. He was named president in 1923, a post he held until his death in 1952. In addition to his career in life insurance, he was widely respected. Mr. Spaulding served on Howard University’s board of trustees from 1936 until his death in 1952

The Company’s seven organizers were men who were active in business, educational, medical and civic life of the Durham community. An early financial crisis tested their resolve and the company was reorganized in 1900 with only John Merrick and Dr. Aaron M. Moore remaining. Charles C. Spaulding was named General Manager, under whose direction the company grew and achieved national prominence.

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