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John Lassiter

Insurance executive and financial planner John Lassiter was born April 18, 1937, in Chicago, Illinois. Lassiter admired community businessmen and as a child wanted to be an actuary. Attending Betsy Ross Elementary School and graduating from Parker High School in 1954, Lassiter earned a B.S. degree in statistical economics from University of Illinois in 1959. He then went on to earn his CLU and ChFC degrees from American College in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, in 1963 and 1969, respectively.

From 1959 to 1961, Lassiter worked as a statistician for the United States Department of Labor, and then served as a claims authorizer for the Social Security Administration from 1961 to 1963. Assisted by Benny Ross, Lassiter was one of the first African American executives hired by Prudential Insurance Company. In 1964 and 1965, Lassiter sold in excess of one million dollars of life insurance, and in 1968, he won the coveted Prudential President’s Trophy for supervising the best sales force in the nation.

During the 1960s, Lassiter became active in CORE, the NAACP, Urban League, Operation Breadbasket and PUSH. He helped deliver tents and supplies to besieged civil rights workers in the South.

In 1984 Lassiter retired from Prudential and founded Lassiter Enterprises. He has obtained general agency contracts from most major insurance agencies including Prudential, Kemper, Travelers, and Guardian. Supported by certified public accountants, investment counselors, real estate advisors, attorneys, and risk managers, Lassiter marketed his financial services. On the boards of Trinity Hospital and Chicago Youth Centers, he also served on the presidential advisory committee of Chicago State University.

Mr. Lassiter died of prostate cancer on August 26, 2005; he was 68 years old. He leaves behind his wife, Rosielyn Lassiter.

Accession Number

A2004.003

Sex

Male

Interview Date

1/20/2004 |and| 2/11/2004

Last Name

Lassiter

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Schools

Betsy Ross Elementary School

Paul Robeson High School

University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign

First Name

John

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

LAS02

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Caribbean

Favorite Quote

You Can Achieve Anything You Want That You Can Conceive Of And Work Honestly For.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

4/18/1937

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chocolate

Death Date

8/26/2005

Short Description

Financial counselor and insurance executive John Lassiter (1937 - 2005 ) was the CEO of Lassiter Enterprises.

Employment

United States Department of Labor

United States Social Security Administration

Prudential Insurance Company

Lassiter Enterprises, Inc.

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of John Lassiter's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - John Lassiter lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - John Lassiter describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - John Lassiter describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - John Lassiter describes his extended family on his father's side

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - John Lassiter describes his ancestors' encounters with the Ku Klux Klan during the 1890s

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - John Lassiter describes his father's work history in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - John Lassiter talks about seeing celebrities and successful people through his father

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - John Lassiter describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - John Lassiter describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - John Lassiter talks about his personality during his childhood in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - John Lassiter describes his experiences at Betsy Ross Elementary School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - John Lassiter talks about working as a paperboy during his childhood in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - John Lassiter describes his studies at Parker High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - John Lassiter talks about playing sports at Parker High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - John Lassiter talks about his influences at Parker High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - John Lassiter describes race relations at Parker High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - John Lassiter describes his experiences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - John Lassiter talks about his first jobs working as a government statistician

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - John Lassiter describes how he found a new job through his brothers at Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - John Lassiter talks about his activities in the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - John Lassiter talks about his involvement with Toastmasters International

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - John Lassiter describes his tenure at Prudential Insurance Company

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - John Lassiter describes competitions for sales awards at Prudential Insurance Company

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - John Lassiter talks about training members of the Freedom Riders movement

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - John Lassiter talks about working with the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and HistoryMaker Jesse L. Jackson

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - John Lassiter talks about his transition to providing services for major corporations

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - John Lassiter talks about his work as a consultant providing executive benefits

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - John Lassiter considers what he would have done differently in his career

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - John Lassiter talks about a transformational meeting from his tenure at the Prudential Insurance Company

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - John Lassiter describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - John Lassiter reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - John Lassiter talks about how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - John Lassiter narrates his photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - John Lassiter narrates his photographs, pt. 2

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$3

DAStory

1$6

DATitle
John Lassiter talks about his involvement with Toastmasters International
John Lassiter talks about his transition to providing services for major corporations
Transcript
Now, you were a member of CORE [Congress on Racial Equality], Urban League, NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People] in college [at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, Illinois], and later on, Operation PUSH [People United to Save Humanity].$$Absolutely. Right.$$So, some people would only be a member of one or the other.$$No. No, we felt the movement needed every interest--whatever could happen, needed to happen, and everybody would do something. I gave a speech one time in Toastmasters [International], when I first got in college. We had a Toastmasters club in Washington Park Y [YMCA, Young Men's Christian Association] on 51st--50th and Indiana [Avenue]. One of the best Toastmasters clubs in the entire world. It was three thousand clubs in the world at that time. And, our Club 341 was world renowned. Because we had--every year there'd be one speaker, or it would be the top five speakers selected internationally out of three thousand clubs. In my--I was in that club for four years and three of those four years we had somebody in the top five; internationally speaking. One year was [HM] Manford Byrd [Jr.]. One year it was Bob Johnson [Robert E. Johnson], head of Jet magazine, the late Bob Johnson. One year it was Ted Swain [Theodore M. Swain], a white guy who was a federal, became a judge, a federal judge. He was a lawyer at that time. And, we were just outstanding, known throughout the world as--Club 341 Chicago was just outstanding. Well, I gave one speech in that four year period that got me the pencil that night. You get an award for being the best speaker that night. Five speakers per night, okay. Toastmasters--the first hour you do tabletop, 'cause everybody speaks, guest and members alike. The second hour, we have five prepared speakers, and you have five critiques, and then chief evaluators, and then you have a vote. They voted me the top speaker one night. Guess what my topic was.$$What's that?$$"Do something." Do something. Don't let this period pass you by and not contribute to this movement. If you can't march, then write letters. If you can't picket then get on the telephone, man the telephone bank. "Do something." Do something. And, I gave a whole bunch of examples of what they could do. My cousin Ed, who fought the people down in Ku Klux Klan [KKK], I gave all kind of examples. And, I got the award that night for the first time, the only time I got the award. And, that "Do something" consciousness kinda guided me in what I was doing professionally and civically. And so, you need to always do something.$How did things change from the late '60s [1960s] through the mid-'80s [1980s] when you started your company [Lassiter Enterprises]? How did, you know.$$The biggest thing that happened, I think, as the transition occurred, is as the different companies, for example, Independence Bank [Chicago, Illinois] was born in that period. They sold out to white folks. John, John--[HM] George Johnson started an Afro--not Afro Sheen, it was called--$$Johnson Products [Company].$$Johnson Products. He sold out to white folks. So that other folks--so, I said, well, you know, it's not--and they, by the way, and they've done very well. I mean, the revenue they got from those sales is very profound. Because the purpose of any business is to grow it and then sell it. I mean, that's the purpose of a business. Sell it or pass it to the next generation. But, above all capitalize on it and get the money out of it. Which is happening more and more every day. I said, "Well, now that makes sense to me. Let me do some of that too." So, I started partnering with white firms downtown. Work on the national scene. I would never have thought about that back in the '60s [1960s]; would never have crossed my mind. But, when I need a backroom to do what I'm not gonna build up a staff to do, for example, African Healthcare got 25,000 employees. They got 4,000 physicians. And, they got over $3 billion of revenue coming in, and I have access to them. So, I need somebody to help see those people for me. I'm not gonna hire no 200 people to go see those people for me. I'll hire me an enrollment company.$$Okay. The people that you're insuring so they could get their physical--$$Naw, naw, just a minute, just a minute.$$Oh, I'm sorry. Okay.$$To insure each part of those persons individually is my goal. I'm not gonna see them myself.$$Oh--$$I'm gonna hire an enrollment company to see them for me. And, there are no black enrollment companies. It's only white enrollment companies. So, I'll hire me a white enrollment company to see them for me, and split the business with them. That's what you call worksite marketing. So, I got involved with that. Similarly, that's what happened in the '80s [1980s]. Similarly in the '90s [1990s], I hired a company called Clark Consulting, which is Clark--formerly Clark Bardes. And, they now do consulting for the--they have been doing consulting for only the top tier companies in the world, the major companies. And, now I got half a dozen cases pending right now, with them doing the backroom work for me, for the executive of these major companies. And, anyone of these cases that pop, would be more money than, than all the years I've worked in this business. You get Dow Chemical to pop, for example, you got 300 executives at Dow Chemical buying $10 million apiece of insurance, that's a lifetime of work. Well, these guys, because I belong to Boule [Sigma Pi Phi] now. Boule has a whole bunch of black people who are running these companies. A guy in charge of American Express [Company]. A guy in charge of Merrill Lynch [Wealth Management]. A guy in charge of TIAA-CREF, I mean, these are black (unclear). These are my fraternity brothers who love to see me get some business that I've earned the right to, by bringing the right possible solution for their problems. And, so they need deferred compensation, they need executive benefits, they need things done for them. And so, I got my boys working for me to help this happen on a joint venture basis, so. But, I could take full advantage of the whole marketplace as opposed to the neighborhood, as opposed to the kitchen table, as opposed to the Chatham Park Village [Cooperative Apartments, Chicago, Illinois], as opposed to (unclear)--and, things are happening, things have happened and are happening. I can probably say this officially now because it is pretty much to bed now. We got R.R. Donnelley and Sons. And, they've, for example, just bought a company in Canada to almost double their size. And, they have factories in China. So, the execs all over the world now, sixty different countries will be our clients. And, other companies like that, we're working on.$$That's big.$$Oh, yeah. That's huge. That's huge.$$(Laughter).$$When I think of my friend [HM James D.] Montgomery who spent forty years of his life working as one of the best lawyers in the world; who hooked up with Johnnie Cochran and a whole bunch of other guys in the national firms. And, now they're doing in one year what he did in forty years. I understand what that means, you see (laughter). Our motivations similar, okay, you see.