From The Tennessee Insuror Magazine - Vol. 29 No. 4
"In general, the year 1893 was not a good one for the insurance industry in Tennessee. Court decisions and "extreme" regulations had mounted against carriers. A new "charter" tax law had been passed that would greatly increase costs for non-Tennessee-based entities. This left many insurers considering leaving the state altogether. Meetings were held throughout the year with insurance company representatives and Tennessee's then-leaders, Governor Peter Turney and State Attorney General Pickle.
At a national meeting of Fire Insurance agents held in Niagara Falls that May, resolutions were adopted between agents and carriers to stand firm against insurance laws and regulations that were restricting business in the State. The meeting discussions determined that, "The condition of the insurance business in Tennessee was greatly deplored," and that, "Adverse legislation and opinions discriminating against companies brought this about."1
In July, many carriers indeed stopped writing new business in the state. Among those that stayed active were Aetna, Continental, Hartford and Royal. In the months that followed, agents in the state determined that they must gather to protect their business interests. A group of agents that had been part of the Kentucky and Tennessee Insurance Association organized their own meeting, stating that, "We cannot expect the Kentucky and Tennessee association to do this (protect their interests) because they have no power."2
The meeting that group held is considered the first convention of our Association, although the group was not formally defined at that time. Among that group were Thomas M. Hart, a "well-known local insurance man" of Hart, Sharpe & Co. in Nashville and Sol Moyses, a respected insurance agent from Chattanooga. The two later decided that a more formal structure needed to be introduced for the meetings.
In 1899, the Kentucky-Tennessee Board of Underwriters ruled that 5 percent of advance commissions would be withheld from Tennessee agents. This prompted Hart and Moses to action. On October 19, 1899, after "several weeks on the project," a meeting was held at the Maxwell House in Nashville to formalize the agent group and discuss opposition of the Kentucky-Tennessee group. It was determined at the meeting that the group would be formed as the Tennessee Underwriters Association of Local Agents Association (sometimes referred to as the Tennessee Fire Insurance Agents' Association) and operate under the National Local Agents Association federal organization, which had been formed in 1896.
A board was formed, and Hart was named as the first president of our Association, while Moyses became the first Secretary and Treasurer. Turmoil continued in the industry into the new century, and the agents' group went through several years of turmoil as the market continued to be dismal in Tennessee. In 1907, carriers began returning to the state and prospects improved. The Association strengthened its role as an advocate for the industry, and a campaign by the group to "reduce fire waste" in the state served as a rallying cry. In 1908, the fire campaign, along with increased effortsto simplify carrier operations in the state, cemented the long-term role of the group.
In 1914, Miss Julia Hindman was elected as the first female Secretary of our Association, and served the organization for 17 years. Her efforts were known across the country as she was involved in many insurance-related groups and activities. She was widely known to her fellow agents as "Miss Julia" and worked in insurance for almost 50 years at the agencies of Metzger-Keith Insurance, Hindman & Brock Company and later Loventhal Brothers in Nashville.
Around this time, the rise in automobile insurance also increased the role of the independent agent, and thus the Association's activities gained more importance. In fact, much of the Association's role during this period included fighting for rate changes, carrier appointments and commission increases for agents in Tennessee. Does that sound familiar?
The Era of "Insurors" Begins
In 1938, John D. Saint was hired as the first "state manager-secretary" of the Association. He had formerly been the manager of the Oklahoma agents association, and previously worked with agents in North Carolina and Louisiana. He opened the first Association headquarters, and worked to build a framework for the organization. In 1940, R.T. Cawthon succeeded Saint in the role.
Some time after World War II, the organization began operating under the name Insurors of Tennessee. The name change was related to the Association's new participation in advertising campaigns encouraging consumers to utilize an "Insuror" for all their insurance needs. The group's new "executive manager" George Moss, started in the early 1950s and had the role of promoting the advertising program.
The advertising program continued into the 1960s, and new Insurors executive secretary George Nordhaus was at the forefront of growing it. Nordhaus expanded the Insurors activities into other avenues, and also was the founding publisher of the weekly version of The Insurors Bulletin, which began circulation in January of 1963. He also was instrumental in introducing the "Rapid Rater" system to Tennessee and endorsing the first agency management system for our members to use.
In 1962, the Insurors offices had moved from the Commerce Bank (downtown Nashville) to 1700 West End Avenue. Two years later, Insurors member Bud Curtis and Nordaus bought the building at 1700 Hayes Street where the offices would later move. The Association had also contracted with a member to handle its lobbying efforts. As Nordhaus was not involved in the legislative efforts, longtime agent and Board Treasurer Jim Alexander became the lobbyist for Insurors, and is still known as one of the most effective at the job we have ever had.
In 1966, Bill Sirls took the role of Executive Secretary, with Ted Moody continuing in his role as Assistant Executive Secretary. Sirls continued many of the programs we had in place, but in January of 1971 he resigned due to "uncertainty in the industry," and a new era of Insurors was about to be ushered in.
Cementing our Foundation
In March of 1971, the Insurors was changed forever as their lobbyist and member agent, Jim Alexander, was named Executive Director. Alexander defined a new path for the Association, taking us more to the forefront of government affairs and expanding on our education and marketing efforts. He was responsible for increasing our role on the Vol Network with John Ward as the Insurors spokesperson, and got the Association involved as a sponsor of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. Alexander also introduced "education cassette tapes" for members and helped introduce a larger Young Agents program, including our first Young Agents Conference in 1973.
In 1975, Alexander hired a young professor at UT-Nashville named Chuck Bidek to teach licensing courses for the Association. In 1979, Chuck joined Insurors full time as the Assistant Executive Director. Over the next few years, Chuck continued teaching classes and developing materials for agents, including his work with Joe Rackley on computer rating systems. His role expanded with the Association over time, as he introduced Insurors to the world of computerized data and became heavily involved in the planning of the Annual Convention.
Change and Prosperity; Prosperity and Change
In 1987, Alexander announced he would be retiring, and the Board President Don Jordan called a special meeting to address the situation. A plan was put in place for Chuck to transition into the role of Executive Director for Insurors of Tennessee, with Alexander staying on for a time as the Director of Legislative Affairs. Chuck assumed his duties in January of 1988, and went right to work on new ideas for the Association’s future. One of the early tasks in Chuck’s tenure was moving the Association office from Parkway Towers to the Vanderbilt Plaza Office Building. The new location was valuable at the time because of its conference space and connection to the Vanderbilt Plaza Hotel.
In July of 1989, Chuck unveiled the inaugural issue of this publication, The Tennessee Insuror. Lou Patten, a member and State Senator at the time, graced the cover of what would become our flagship publication.
Insurors continued to grow under Chuck’s leadership, so much in fact that a new location was sought out to hold the Association offices. In April of 1994, the new office building at 2500 Hillsboro Road (now 21st Avenue) completed its renovation and was moved into. The Insurors portion of the building featured 11 offices and a classroom/meeting facility with a full kitchen. It provided a lot of new opportunities for the Association, including revenue generation through rent from other tenants, classes and meeting rentals. Chuck added landlord to his list of many responsibilities and the building continues to be a great homebase for our staff.
In 1996, with a volatile comp market and not enough competition in the state, Chuck helped form a new member services program called Preferred Comp of Tennessee. The program was launched in July and received over $1 million in submissions in the first week! The program expanded in 1997 with VolComp, and went to hit levels as high $25 million in written premium. Chuck also spearheaded member programs for premium financing, earthquake insurance, public entities and many more.
In 1999, a landmark addition for the Association was set into motion. That was the year Insurors members began discussions to create Insurors Bank of Tennessee (now INSBANK). The bank was a response to the increasing fear of banks taking over the insurance industry through acquisitions and mergers. Chuck worked with the Board and Cumberland Bancorp to help set the new bank in motion. In under a year, the bank met its capitalization requirements and received regulatory approval from the State and the FDIC.
Prosperity for the Association continued into the new millennium, but the world changed on 9/11. Our 2001 convention was held just five weeks after the terrorist attacks, and many carriers and agents were involved in the insurance fallout. An estimated $32.5 billion in insured losses occured, making it one of the largest insurance loss events in global history. Our convention continued, but with some of our lowest numbers in years.
With the recession hitting in late 2007, we saw even more change in the industry. Agencies were bought, merged and/ or went out of business. Workers' compensation changed in Tennessee and the markets changed with it. Insurors never took the hit we thought might be coming, but we had to brace for impact.
As the economy began to turn around in 2009, we also saw a resurgence in the Association as more members began turning out for events and our Young Agents program began to grow. Our legislative efforts continued, and over the next few years we worked for and against key pieces of legislation – especially in the workers' compensation arena. In March of 2011, we saw the launch of one of those pieces of legislation – the work comp exemption registry. And in 2015, an extensive effort by this Assoication helped defeat the proposals for a work comp Opt-Out system in Tennessee.
Insurors of Tennessee has weathered the storm of changes in our industry, mergers & acquisitions, and the long-predicted "extinction" of the independent agent. Our members, volunteers, staff and our many carrier partners have played a key role in the success of our industry in Tennessee and beyond.
Updated in 2023
Longtime Insurors CEO Chuck Bidek officially retired at the end of 2018. This brought a co-opted celebration of 125 years of Insurors of Tennesse as well as the end of Chuck's successful tenure to our 125th Annual Convention in Nashville.
On January 1st, 2019 Ashley Gold, J.D. stepped into the role of CEO to lead the Staff into a new era.
Just over a year after the transition in leadership, the Covid-19 pandemic swept quickly and dramatically across the world. This brought many industry matters into a 'new normal.' Doing business would evolve into a new virtual frontier that brought many challenges and difficulties to our industry. The 127th Annual Convention in 2020 was modified to a 1-day event with some participants viewing online via webstream.
Former insurance agent Ron Travis was hired in November 2020 to be the next CEO of the Insurors of Tennessee. Ron Travis brought 35 years of experience in the insurance industry to the Association.
Under Ron's leadership, the association has seen a return back to familiar ways following the Covid-19 pandemic. With new staff personnel and a continuing presence of experienced volunteers, Insurors has established clear visions for what's next. The association witnessed successful annual conventions in 2021 and 2022. Insurors was also able to add improvements to the education department by adding state-of-the-art audio and video broadcast capabilities to provide CE courses to members and insurance professionals across the country.
The 130th Annual Convention in Knoxville will showcase many tributes to the storied history of the association as well as bring forth new and exciting programs and services that are in store for the near future.
1 - per "An Important Convention Just Held at Niagara Falls; Resolutions Adopted Concerning Tennessee Laws and Decisions" via The Daily American - June 2, 1893
2 - per "Among Insurance Men" via The Daily American -August 14, 1893
Our foundation has been built upon the service of these Independent Agents. Their commitment to serving the association is admirable and honorable and we are extremely grateful for their leadership.
1899 - Thomas Hart - Nashville
1901 - O.P. Rutledge - Columbia
1903 - J.E. Davis - Knoxville
1905-06 - Irvine Chase - Nashville
1909-10 - W.E. Metzger - Nashville
1913-14 - L.Y. Mason - Memphis
1916-17 - H.G. McMillan - Knoxville
1921 - Stanley Lachman - Chattanooga
1924-25 - Charles Reed - LaFollette
1928 - George Caldwell - Knoxville
1931 - W.I. Edwards - Nashville
1933 - J.W. Oliphant - Chattanooga
1935 - H.H. Corson - Nashville
1938-39 - W.D. Pettigrew - Knoxville
1941 - Vernon Sharp, Jr. - Nashville
1943 - J.H. Brandy - Nashville
1945 - J.A. Donoho - Hartsville
1947 - T.K. Robinson - Memphis
1949 - Walter Greenspan - Chattanooga
1900 - Thomas Burns - Nashville
1902 - J.A. Sylvester - Memphis
1904 - N.H. Grady - Chattanooga
1907-08 - C.W. Olsen - Chattanooga
1911-12 - James McKee - Nashville
1915 - John Owen - Chattanooga
1918-20 - C.B.H. Loventhal - Nashville
1922-23 - H. Phelps Smith - Nashville
1926-27 - Albert Frierson - Shelbyville
1929-30 - John Dean - Memphis
1932 - Bailie Cross - Nashville
1934 - S.M. Williamson - Memphis
1936-37 - W.S. Keese, Jr. - Chattanooga
1940 - W.M. Harris - Johnson City
1942 - Will Johnston - Memphis
1944 - C.P. Edwards - Kingsport
1946 - S.H. Chester - Chattanooga
1948 - John Bailey - Knoxville
1950 - John Holmes - Ripley
Insuror of the Year Award
Our associations most esteemed honor - awarded annually at our Convention, this award recognizes a member agent who has displayed exemplary service to the association and the independent insurance industry.
1964 - Jack Jackson - Nashville
1966 - Bill McDonald - Knoxville
1968 - Larry Warren - Nashville
1970 - Larry Levine - Chattanooga
1972 - Not Awarded
1974 - Willard F. Templeton - Shelbyville
1976 - James A. "John" Haugen - Columbia
1978 - Don Jordan - Chattanooga
1980 - John Pitts - Memphis
1982 - Jim Alexander - McKenzie
1984 - Louis Clay - Memphis
1986 - Noah Wilson - Morristown
1988 - John A. "Jack" Spann, III - Nashville
1990 - Paul R. "Pete" Smith - Nashville
1992 - Brad Smith - Memphis
1994 - Richard S. Hollis, Jr. - Memphis
1996 - S. Norfleet Anthony, Jr. - Ripley
1998 - L.H. "Sonny" Herndon - Humboldt
2000 - Lillard T. Brown - Nashville
2002 - Charles T. Bidek - Nashville
2004 - Clay Jackson - Nashville
2006 - Louis Moran, III - Knoxville
2008 - Johnny L. Griffin - Kingston
2010 - Davis S. Porch, III - Waverly
2012 - Tee Zerfoss - Nashville
2014 - Ed Gibbons - Johnson City
2016 - Kevin Ownby - Sevierville
2018 - Eddie Miller, III - Murfreesboro
2020 - John McInturff, III - Greeneville
2022 - Walt Bradshaw - Dyersburg
1965 - Add Webb - Chattanooga
1967 - Jack Jackson - Nashville
1969 - Louis A. Schmitt - Nashville
1971 - Arch Northington - Clarksville
1973 - William T. "Bill" Egbert - Nashville
1975 - Oran Ward - Nashville
1977 - Bill O'Kain - Oak Ridge
1979 - John Pitts - Memphis
1981 - Arch Northington - Clarksville
1983 - Joe C. Foster - Columbia
1985 - Busch Thoma - Tullahoma
1987 - E.B. "Jack" Thoma, II - Tullahoma
1989 - Sam Bradshaw - Dyersburg
1991 - William E. "Bill" Wallace - Knoxville
1993 - Clay Jackson - Nashville
1995 - Lou Farringer, Jr. - Nashville
1997 - Harvey Little - Winchester
1999 - William E. "Bill" Wallace - Knoxville
2001 - Arch Trimble, Jr. - Chattanooga
2003 - Christie Reeves - Nashville
2005 - J. Alan Johnson - Madisonville
2007 - Bill Ketron, Jr. - Murfreesboro
2009 - Fred L. Davis - Memphis
2011- Scott Ferguson - Chattanooga
2013 - Maurice Pinson - Nashville
2015 - Brad Smith - Memphis
2017 - Cindi Gresham - Memphis
2019 - Kevin Hale - Nashville
2021 - Bob McIntire - Cleveland
2023 - Portis Tanner - Union City