Charles E. Becker (1896-1968) was president of the Franklin Life Insurance Company in Springfield during the company’s years of greatest growth from 1939 to 1961. When Becker took over ownership, the homegrown firm had $178 million of insurance in force; by 1961, the total was $5.5 billion.
Becker, a master salesman and sales manager, described his initiation into the insurance field, which took place in 1921 in Wichita, Kansas, in The Fabulous Franklin Story: the History of the Franklin Life Insurance Company 1884-1970, by Francis O’Brien (1970).
He first sold a policy to a 35-year-old farmer, Becker said.
With his check in my pocket, I immediately drove to the home of one of his brothers. By bed time, I had made twelve interviews; had twelve sales with premiums amounting to approximately three thousand dollars. On that same day, I found time to meet for the first time the future Mrs. (Winifred) Becker. It was a great day in my life.
Becker later formed the Great American Life Insurance Co. in San Antonio, Texas, and then merged Great American with Springfield’s Franklin in 1939.
Becker’s 1965 Springfield First Citizen award cited his community and political activism and his donation of $50,000 to Springfield College in Illinois (now Benedictine University Springfield) to help build a library — the Charles Becker Library.
Becker also was a laureate of the American National Business Hall of Fame.
Born in West Bend, Iowa, Becker grew up in Wichita. He is buried in Springfield’s Calvary Cemetery.
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