Southwestern Life Insurance Company

By: Ricky Krostag

Type: General Entry

Published: July 1, 1995

Southwestern Life Insurance Company, with headquarters in Dallas, offers life, accident, and health insurance as the largest subsidiary of the I.C.H. Corporation based in Louisville, Kentucky. Southwestern Life grew out of the Fraternal Life Association, organized in 1897, and a direct predecessor known as the Southwestern Life Association. The company was founded in Dallas in 1903 to gain the financial advantage of keeping premium reserves in the Southwest. Its advertising slogan, "Help turn this cow around and keep Texas Money in Texas!," reflected investors' belief that premium reserves were an important source of loan capital and that the Southwest needed loan capital to grow. The company began selling life insurance with a provision for accident insurance, and forty years later added "health" insurance to its underwriting. Among early organizers were: Houston activist W. A. Childress, Sam Cochran, Republic Insurance Company founder George Washington Jalonick, Alexander Sanger of Sanger Brothers and Edward Titche of Titche-Goettinger department stores, E. O. Tenison, J. B. Wilson, Houston capitalist John Henry Kirby, and Walter Tips. Also instrumental in the firm's early growth were Thomas W. Vardell and Henry D. Lindsley. Scottish actuary Lawrence Maclagan Cathles joined the firm in 1908, and Paul V. Montgomery some time later. Other important actuaries included B. P. Bailey, Ralph Coit, and Everett G. Brown. Southwestern weathered World War I successfully with most of its funds in farm and ranch loans, while some members of the firm helped the government to develop war risk insurance. In 1918 the company prepared its first insurance contract for Magnolia Petroleum Company of Dallas, providing life insurance for 5,500 people totalling $6.5 million dollars. During its first twenty years, Southwestern acquired several small failing Texas companies, and by 1920 total sales reached almost $43 million. The onset of the Great Depression, however, brought a drop of 15 percent in total life sales between 1929 and 1930. In 1933 the Missouri State Life Insurance Company of St. Louis, then part of a conglomerate of insurance companies, banks, newspapers, and industrial firms controlled by the bond house of Caldwell and Company under Rogers Caldwell of Nashville, acquired the controlling stock of Southwestern Life Insurance. Unfortunately, Caldwell and Company failed after the stock market crash of 1929, and in 1933 Missouri State Life became insolvent. In 1934 Walter W. Head organized General American Life to assume Missouri State's business, and subsequently a new Texas corporation was formed to buy the Southwestern stock owned by General American. In 1980 the Tenneco Company acquired this company, still known as Southwestern, and sold it in 1986 to the I.C.H Corporation. By the 1990s Southwestern was still in operation and licensed in thirty-nine states, the District of Columbia, and Guam.

Harold F. Boss, How Green the Grazing: 75 Years at Southwestern Life, 1903–1978 (Dallas: Taylor, 1978). Annie N. and Lloyd K. Friedman, On the Trail of Actuaries in Texas, 1844–1964 (San Antonio: Watercress Press, 1988).
  • Business
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas
  • North Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Ricky Krostag, “Southwestern Life Insurance Company,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 08, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 1, 1995

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