Charles Spaulding, business leader born


Charles Spaulding
Date: 
Sat, 1874-08-01

On this date, Charles Clinton Spaulding, an African American business leader, was born in 1874. He built the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company into the nation's largest black-owned business by the time of his death in 1952, when it was worth about $40 million.

Spaulding was born in Columbus County, North Carolina, and left his father's farm at the age of 20. He moved to Durham, N.C.,, where in 1898, he completed what was equivalent to a high school education and became the manager of a black-owned grocery store. In 1899, the recently established North Carolina Mutual and Provident Association hired him as a part-time agent. The following year, he was promoted to full-time general manager, the companies’ only full-time position.

Spaulding was an early proponent of saturation advertising, inundating local businesses with promotional items bearing his company's name. In the first decade of the century, the company prospered, establishing subsidiaries and supporting a variety of local businesses. Spaulding was elevated to vice president in 1908, and then to secretary-treasurer in 1919, when the firm officially changed its name to the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company. By 1920, the company had over 1,000 employees and several offices along the East Coast. In 1923, Spaulding became president, a position he held until his death in 1952. North Carolina Mutual continued to grow and to establish more black-operated subsidiaries in the 1920s. His financial reorganization of the company insured its survival during the economic depression of the 1930s.

Although he was best noted for his business leadership, Spaulding was also involved in political and educational issues. As national chairman of the Urban League's Emergency Advisory Council in the 1930s, he campaigned to secure New Deal jobs for African-Americans. As chairman of the Durham Committee on Negro Affairs, he engaged in voter registration efforts and convinced city officials to hire black police officers. Spaulding also supported education for blacks while serving as a trustee for Howard University, Shaw University, and North Carolina College. He died in 1952.

Reference:
Reference Library of Black America Volumes 1 through 5
Edited by Mpho Mabunda
Copyright 1998, Gale Research, Detroit, MI

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Person / name: 

Spaulding, Charles