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George Beavers Jr.; Insurance Firm Founder

October 14, 1989|BURT A. FOLKART | BURT A. FOLKART, TIMES STAFF WRITER

George A. Beavers Jr., the last of the triumvirate of entrepreneurs who in 1925 founded the first California insurance company dedicated to blacks, died Thursday in Los Angeles at 97.

With William Nickerson Jr., who died in 1945, and Norman O. Houston, who died in 1981, Beavers began what has evolved into the Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Co., with offices in 22 states and the District of Columbia.

Headquartered in Los Angeles, as it was when the firm began 64 years ago, Golden State today is the third-largest insurer of blacks in the United States with nearly $5 billion worth of insurance in force and assets of $120 million.

Today's figures are far removed from the rented, one-room office over a Central Avenue store where the firm began after Nickerson came west from Texas to discover that there was little or no insurance available for the then 16,000 black residents of Los Angeles.

The white-owned companies of the day considered them uninsurable and first Nickerson and later Houston and Beavers, a Georgia-born businessman, set out to provide insurance for their own people.

Nickerson studied law so that the firm would not be burdened with an attorney's fee to establish a corporation and Houston and Beavers set out to satisfy state law by securing 500 applications for life insurance, with premiums paid in advance, and a deposit of $15,000 as a guarantee fund.

Nickerson managed the overall project, Houston raised the $15,000 and Beavers found 500 blacks who would pay premiums to a company that didn't yet exist.

On July 23, 1925, the company formed, operating on the old "debit-agent" style of business by which company representatives visited their insured monthly to pick up payments in advance.

The company flourished and so did its influence in the community.

Beavers, as did the other founders, became a community leader. He was honored for government service by Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman and by Los Angeles mayors ranging from Fletcher Bowron to Tom Bradley.

Bradley on Friday called his late friend "a dynamic leader (and) a source of inspiration to others who wished to get into business and improve the quality of life in the community." Supervisor Kenneth Hahn remembered him as a "longtime friend and community leader."

Beavers belonged to dozens of civic and business organizations and many other community and political support groups.

His survivors include a sister, Helen Beavers Batiste, Golden State's first office employee. A funeral service will be held Tuesday at 1 p.m. at Angelus Funeral Home, 3875 S. Crenshaw Blvd.

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