The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon
Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

James Speed

Corporate executive James H. Speed, Jr. was born on June 13, 1953 in Oxford, North Carolina. Speed’s father was a laborer in the town of Oxford, and his mother was a homemaker. In 1956, Speed’s mother suffered a stroke that left her paralyzed on the left side of her body. Still, she persevered and became a role-model to young James. Speed and his family lived in a mixed-income neighborhood, and he attended the segregated Orange Street Grade School where he excelled in math. Speed also distinguished himself as an athlete and had dreams of becoming a professional basketball player. In 1969, the Oxford Schools were integrated, and Speed attended J.F. Webb High School and was a member of the school’s integrated baseball team. Later that year, Speed participated in marches, protesting a racially charged murder in Oxford. In 1971, Speed graduated from J.F. Webb High School and entered North Carolina Central University.

Speed flourished as a basketball player and accounting student. He joined the National Association of Black Accountants and made the Dean’s List his senior year. Upon graduation, Speed accepted a job at Pittsburgh Plate & Glass as a staff auditor. In 1979, Speed earned his M.B.A. degree from Atlanta University and was named the "Most Outstanding Student" in the business program. After graduation, Speed joined the international accounting firm of Deloitte & Touche as a certified accountant where one of his principal clients was North Carolina Mutual. In 1991, Speed joined Hardee’s Food System as vice president and controller. Four years later, Speed was promoted to senior vice president, and, in 1997, he became a member of the company’s five-person senior management team. A short time later, Speed began work as a consultant for North Carolina Mutual. In 2000, he formed the Speed Financial Group but was recruited in 2003 to join North Carolina Mutual. He became president and CEO in 2004.

Speed lives in Raleigh with his wife and daughter. He serves on the Durham Chamber of Commerce.

Speed was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on June 25, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.187

Sex

Male

Interview Date

6/25/2007

Last Name

Speed

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

Clark Atlanta University

Orange Street Grade School

J.F. Webb High School

North Carolina Central University

Mary Potter High School

First Name

James

Birth City, State, Country

Oxford

HM ID

SPE04

Favorite Season

Fall

Sponsor

AON

State

North Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Maui, Hawaii

Favorite Quote

Out Of Every Adversity, There Is A Seed Of Equal Or Greater Benefit.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

North Carolina

Birth Date

6/13/1953

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Durham

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Fried Chicken

Short Description

Insurance executive James Speed (1953 - ) is the president and CEO of North Carolina Mutual Insurance Company.

Employment

North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company

PPG Industries

Deloitte

Hardee's Food Systems

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:528,30:5720,152:14551,276:20713,407:21108,414:31818,607:37138,730:37518,736:40634,789:42838,832:54951,974:61182,1084:68131,1241:72076,1329:72466,1336:77692,1469:89297,1658:90452,1686:93917,1777:94225,1782:97767,1867:102948,1912:118170,2316:120830,2429:125380,2527:132794,2573:133122,2585:133942,2596:134270,2601:139354,2716:147190,2817:149500,2863:149780,2868:150200,2876:152440,2919:156286,2932:157182,2954:158206,2974:159038,2990:159486,2997:170990,3197:171900,3216:177760,3299:181140,3397:181465,3403:183675,3427:185170,3464:185560,3471:186210,3483:187445,3511:190174,3527:194194,3609:194529,3615:194931,3622:195534,3632:197410,3677:198415,3702:199152,3729:204780,3900:215628,4089:218211,4167:218715,4176:219030,4182:221046,4228:221613,4240:223755,4298:231916,4379:232304,4404:245943,4483:248430,4501:248880,4508:250605,4533:251280,4544:254130,4566:257712,4595:265660,4717$0,0:13448,320:14600,344:21434,407:29500,594:33348,679:42142,806:42454,811:42844,817:44560,828:50020,923:51034,948:54388,1014:55012,1030:55636,1040:56182,1050:68744,1253:75075,1346:76520,1372:77965,1406:80770,1466:81790,1479:83320,1506:89675,1611:103565,1805:107294,1888:107996,1904:108464,1912:110882,1963:111428,1972:112598,1992:120590,2094:121360,2144:121640,2149:124160,2213:130740,2411:141572,2568:144452,2650:161138,2897:163430,2919:166423,2989:171630,3056:172894,3089:174553,3120:177555,3179:177871,3185:179056,3219:186750,3275:188432,3324:191530,3364:193610,3403:196410,3454:199370,3508:209974,3645:214865,3754:217858,3810:218150,3815:218953,3831:219391,3839:219683,3844:220121,3851:226750,3938:227268,3947:227934,3958:230154,4008:232296,4104:232758,4109:250155,4335:250830,4347:251130,4352:251730,4364:252855,4384:254150,4389
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of James Speed's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - James Speed lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - James Speed describes his maternal family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - James Speed describes his paternal family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - James Speed describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - James Speed remembers his early childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - James Speed describes his childhood neighborhood of Oxford, North Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - James Speed recalls learning about North Carolina Mutual in his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - James Speed describes First Baptist Church in Oxford, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - James Speed remembers his involvement with the Boy Scouts of America and First Baptist Church in Oxford, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - James Speed describes a teacher who inspired him at Orange Street School in Fayetteville, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - James Speed describes the racial makeup of neighborhoods in Oxford, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - James Speed recalls his time at Mary Potter High School in Oxford, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - James Speed describes the integration of J.F. Webb High School in Oxford North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - James Speed recalls the impact of "Dickie" Marrow's murder

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - James Speed remembers deciding to attend North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - James Speed describes his time at North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - James Speed talks about his childhood extracurricular activities

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - James Speed remembers his activities at North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - James Speed recalls how he became more studious at North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - James Speed describes his first job at PPG industries in Greensboro, North Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - James Speed describes his experiences at Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - James Speed talks about working for Deloitte & Touche in Raleigh, North Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - James Speed describes the attitude toward racial inclusion at Deloitte & Touche in Raleigh, North Carolina

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - James Speed describes his work habits as an M.B.A. student and a young accountant

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - James Speed talks about meeting his wife in 1972

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - James Speed explains his focus on corporate and financial success during the 1980s

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - James Speed recalls his hiring as vice president and controller at Hardee's Food Systems

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - James Speed describes the improvements he implemented as vice president and controller for Hardee's Food Systems

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - James Speed talks about improving processes at Hardee's Food Systems

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - James Speed talks about the importance of positive thinking

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - James Speed talks about Peace Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, North Carolina

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - James Speed talks about diversifying the staff at Hardee's Food Systems in Rocky Mount, North Carolina

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - James Speed describes the Lightner and Lewis families in Raleigh, North Carolina

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - James Speed talks about his daughter, Kiera Speed

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - James Speed talks about becoming president of North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company in Durham, North Carolina

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - James Speed explains why he loves North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - James Speed details the history of North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company and its importance to the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - James Speed describes North Carolina Mutual's mission and contributions to the community

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - James Speed explains why the title, President of North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company, does not define him

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - James Speed compares his hometown of Oxford, North Carolina in 2007 to his time growing up there

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - James Speed reflects upon his greatest accomplishment at North Carolina Mutual Insurance Company in Durham, North Carolina

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - James Speed reflects upon his legacy

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$5

DAStory

6$4

DATitle
James Speed talks about working for Deloitte & Touche in Raleigh, North Carolina
James Speed talks about becoming president of North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company in Durham, North Carolina
Transcript
So what did you do next? You graduated in 1979 from Atlanta University [Clark Atlanta University, Atlanta, Georgia].$$Uh-hm.$$What was your dream? To work for a big--$$Accounting firm. In the next, next, I'd say next move, major point there for me was, I was, again, I was reading in a magazine, the Journal of Accountancy, it was Fortune magazine or Journal of Accountancy that after spending ten years with a major accounting firm, a partner could expect to make about $100,000 and that's when I said, you know what, I've got to be one of those partners. And so at that point in time, my focus was on public accounting. Dr. Johnnie [L.] Clark again recommended me to Coopers & Lybrand [PricewaterhouseCoopers] my, after my first year, Coopers & Lybrand, she recommended me to go to work for them and they hired me off of her recommendation, as a summer intern. Well, in 1979, I was fortunate enough to have now, undergrad, no offers. I was fortunate enough to have eighteen job offers when I came out of Atlanta University, all eight accounting firms. So I chose Deloitte & Touche [Deloitte LLP]. One of the reasons I chose Deloitte & Touche [Deloitte LLP, Raleigh, North Carolina] is because there was a partner in charge by the name of Charlie Chuney [ph.] and Charlie Chuney [ph.], when I interviewed with him, was such a caring man but I never thought I was going to interview there and then he, during the interview, before I was getting ready to leave because I had already decided I was going to work for, at the time, Peat Marwick [KPMG], that was another firm in Raleigh [North Carolina], it was just, I was going to Deloitte as the last person in town to interview with and he asked an individual by the name of Willie Closs [Willie T. Closs Jr.], now, to come over, who was another African American, and talk to me about why it would be good to work at Deloitte & Touche. And he mentioned that we had a client by the name of McKennis [ph.] in [Mechanics &] Farmers Bank. Now I knew of McKennis [ph.] in Farmers Bank because it was here in Durham [North Carolina]. And Willie Closs who is now today the executive vice president of marketing at North Carolina Mutual [Life Insurance Company, Durham, North Carolina] here. So Willie and I had worked together years ago and Willie convinced me that Deloitte & Touche was a great place to work. So between Charlie Chuney and Willie Closs convincing me that that was a great place to work, I ended up at Deloitte & Touche and I stayed there and had a very successful career there until 1991.$$What are some of the highlights from your career at Deloitte & Touche?$$One of the highlights at Deloitte & Touche was I had an opportunity to work on, what we considered in our office, some very important clients. One of those very important clients, first of all, during my early years there, we were able to secure North Carolina Mutual as one of our clients. At that time, it was the largest black-owned business in the United States and we, I was having an opportunity to work on that, the engagement, and to really to come over to North Carolina Mutual and to be around those, if you will, legends that I had heard about, to walk in a room and there would be Mr. Bill Kennedy [William J. Kennedy III] who, at the time, was the president who was well-known on the boards at Mobil Oil [Corporation] and Pfizer [Inc.] and these major companies back in 1980, early '80s [1980s], and to be around people like a Bert Collins who is our chairman today and to be around guys like, Mr. Cicero Green [ph.] who was the treasurer and you had all of these people that were just people that you had heard about and was just at the top of their game and I had a chance to work with them on the audit staff. Another one was Hardee's Food Systems. Hardee's Food Systems, at the time, was the large, was the second largest client we had in our office and a lot of times you could tell where your career was going by the clients that you got assigned to. So when I was a client of North Carolina Mutual and also, and I realized that they wanted to assign me to North Carolina Mutual because that was an African American owned company but to get assigned and to eventually stay and to manage the Hardee's account was a big achievement because that indicated to me what Deloitte & Touche thought about my talents.$$What were your various titles?$$My various titles was staff accountant, staff accountant in senior accounting, in manager, and then senior manager and I was in the process of being admitted to the partnership in 1991, have an opportunity to be admitted to the partnership when Hardee's Food Systems offered me the job as vice president, controller.$What did you do next? How long did you stay in retirement? And did you start your own firm for a while (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Well I did and I was an investor, I was an investor for a while there and so I started a group called Speed Financial Group [Inc.]. Speed Financial Group was there to, to do pretty much investing kinds of things and so, and one of the endeavors that we took on when I first left Hardee's [Food Systems], it was a group of five of us who was the former president of Hardee's, our former chief operations officer, myself and two other individuals had put a company together and what we were going to do was buy, we were going to buy Hardee's Restaurants in, out of the Charlotte [North Carolina] market. We were going to buy the entire Hardee's Charlotte market and a long story short, the chairman of the company kind of derailed that and after working on this project for about six, seven months, but it was just, at my own leisure of helping find the financing and doing a couple of other things to make that deal work, we're about ready to go to closing and all of a sudden the deal kind of blows up. But I learned a lot in that process from the standpoint of just putting all this infrastructure and so forth together to basically form a company. Well, I was doing this kind of in my spare time but I still had Speed Financial Group. Now Speed Financial Group later on, unbeknownst to me at the time, ended up being the organization that I provided consultant services to through North Carolina Mutual [Life Insurance Company, Durham, North Carolina]. I had lunch with Willie Closs [Willie T. Closs Jr.] and Bert Collins one day, well, let me back up. I can remember my wife [Thedora Speed] had given me a surprise retirement party, April 14th of 2000, two weeks after I had retired and all my high school friends had come and a lot of the people who said that it would never be possible to retire in your forties, they all came and out in the audience was Mr. Bert Collins and Willie Closs. My wife had invited Willie and, 'cause we had worked together at Deloitte [& Touche; Deloitte LLP] for many years and Bert and Carolyn [ph.], his wife came along and I had just given my speech about how great it was to not to be working anymore, to get up and kinda do what you want to do and at the end Mr. Collins comes up and says, [HistoryMaker] James [Speed], we'd love to have you come work at North Carolina Mutual and I said, Mr. Collins, I'm never working again. But, anyway, long story short--$$Now they were on the board?$$Mr. Collins was the president of North Carolina Mutual and he was on the board but I had known them through my relationship, I had known Willie from working together, I had known Mr. Collins through the relationship as being his outside auditor in over the years. And so, you know, we went to, we had lunch a couple of times and, long story short, they asked me one day, Mr. Collins asked me if I would come to work, come to work for Mutual. Well, after I gave him my rate, he says, how about coming one day a week? So, I started one day a week and when I came here that one, started that one day a week, because I realized that initially that I thought I really didn't want to work anymore and what I later found out is all I wanted to do was have a choice. I just wanted to have a choice to say what I basically did and then I got to North Carolina Mutual and we started working on a, well I had worked on some of the issues that we had around our auditing and so forth was helping North Carolina Mutual fix some of those issues. I think about six months after that, Mr. Collins put a team of people together, made of the management team at North Carolina Mutual to put together a strategic plan and this strategic plan would take place for about four to five months about where North Carolina Mutual would go to the future. And he asked me if I would, would be willing to come in and help serve on that strategic planning team and so I did. And as I sat there I saw the huge opportunities we had but more importantly than that, the thing I realized was, I was absolutely loving being here. I would just enjoy myself and I kept saying, my inner self kept saying, you're not supposed to be enjoying work, you're not supposed to be enjoying this but every day I came here, I was thoroughly having a ball.