DUNBAR LIFE originated in 1936 as the Dunbar Mutual Insurance Society, named for Dayton, OH, poet Paul Laurence Dunbar. MELCHISEDECH C. CLARKE, an examiner for the state insurance department, was sent to Cleveland in 1935 to look into the precarious business affairs of local fraternal insurance societies. Rather than liquidating those with problems, Clarke consolidated the assets of the Midwestern Insurance Co., Pyramid Insurance Co., and 2 groups formed in the 1920s by HERBERT S. CHAUNCEY, Crusaders Mutual Insurance Society and Modern Crusaders of the World. The new company had $500,000 worth of insurance in force by 1936, and $1.47 million by 1940. In Apr. 1943, Clarke incorporated the new Dunbar Life Insurance Co. and, by 1 Apr. 1945, had sold 10,000 shares of stock at $16.50 per share. All of the policyholders of Dunbar Mutual were reinsured by Dunbar Life, which in Jan. 1948 reported $6 million worth of insurance in force and assets of more than $400,000. The company also had more than $300,000 in first-mortgage loans to more than 100 families. Dunbar Life was the city's largest black-owned business, employing 26 people in Cleveland and 85 people statewide. In Aug. 1945, Dunbar Life moved its headquarters from 5705 Woodland Ave., which Dunbar Mutual had occupied since 1939, to 7609 Euclid Ave. Following Clarke's death in 1956, Dennis C. Chandler became president of the company, which in 1957 had offices in Akron, Youngstown, Toledo, Dayton, Columbus, and Cincinnati. By the end of 1958, Dunbar's assets had grown to nearly $2 million, and its insurance in force was more than $12 million.
On 1 Jan. 1960, Dunbar Life merged into the Chicago-based Supreme Life Insurance Co., which had been formed in 1929. After the merger, Dunbar Life became the Ohio Division of Supreme Life and was responsible for about 30% of Supreme's business.
See also AFRICAN AMERICANS.