P.H. Willard brought Atlanta Life Insurance to Southeast Texas

P.H. Willard’s surviving family members will always remember his legacy helping expand life insurance access for the Black community.

Atlanta Life Insurance Company, which services Black residents and families, expanded operations with a Beaumont location on Forsythe Street prior to the mid-20th century. P.H. Willard was tasked with overseeing the region.

David Willard, P.H. Willard’s cousin, said Atlanta Life was believed to be the nation’s largest Black-owned business at the time.

“When they were looking to expand into new cities and new territories, they would sort of try to attract people who had a great deal of respect in the community. Of course, it would be easier for them to issue life insurances policies to people in the community because they were known, they were respected, they came from a respected family or things of that nature… There was a lot of respect for (the Willard family) at the time,” David Willard said.

RELATED: Beaumont’s first Black-owned mortuary built on legacy of service

Atlanta education launches everything

The Beaumont native and Charlton-Pollard High School graduate attended and later graduated from Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, where he met his future wife, Othelene. P.H. Willard then moved to Atlanta to teach biology at Clark College, where he was introduced to Atlanta Life, his daughter Nora Lee Alexander said in an email.

Upon bringing Atlanta Life to Texas around 1925, P.H. Willard hired agents from Lufkin, Silsbee, Orange, Port Arthur and Beaumont, along with three clerks, according to Alexander.

“These agents were given the opportunity to go door to door soliciting small amounts of revenue for weekly premiums. During this time, after the Depression, money was at a minimum for the African American community,” Alexander said in the email. “These premiums included money for Ordinary Ins.(Death) and a small amount for

Read the rest Continue Reading