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Thomas L. McLeary

Insurance executive, Chartered Life Underwriter and CEO of Endow, Incorporated, Thomas Livingston McLeary was born on September 8, 1944 in Chicago, Illinois. His mother, Edna Tubbs McLeary and all of her sisters were graduates of Rust College and his father, Thomas Jefferson McLeary, operated a dry cleaners. McLeary attended Doolittle Elementary School and graduated from Englewood High School in 1961.With the help of youth minister Clyde Miller, McLeary received an Illinois General Assembly scholarship, and earned his B.A. degree in psychology from the University of Illinois in 1965.

After graduation, McLeary joined the National Guard and enrolled in Prudential Insurance Company’s Management Training Program. McLeary began to appreciate the insurance business as he worked in the Chicago home office from 1965 to 1970. From 1970 to 1977, McLeary moved into Prudential Insurance’s Chicago Hyde Park office ins sales. Under the guidance of John Lassiter, a member of Operation Push, McLeary won the Prudential’s Agent of the Year Award in 1975 and a President’s Citation. McLeary, a Huebner Scholar attended American College and soon qualified as a Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU). In 1978, McLeary co-founded Endow, Incorporated as a multi-line insurance company dealing with public entities, small and large corporations and individuals of large net worth. In 1992, he formed with three others, Premier Network Service Group, the first national African American property and casualty and financial services firm.

McLeary is a past president of the Chicago Association of Life Underwriters and the Illinois Association of Life Underwriters (IALU). In 1987, McLeary was awarded the IALU’s Distinguished Service Award. A longtime member of the National Minority Business Development Council, McLeary is a member of ABLE and has also been a member of Chicago’s Million Dollar Round Table for twenty-four years. McLeary is active on numerous boards and civic committees. He also enjoys working with his wife on various projects to encourage and support young people.

McLeary was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on December 10, 2006.

Accession Number

A2006.155

Sex

Male

Interview Date

12/10/2006

Last Name

McLeary

Maker Category
Middle Name

L.

Schools

Englewood High School

James R. Doolittle, Jr. Elementary School

University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign

Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Any

First Name

Thomas

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

MCL03

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

No

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Maui, Hawaii

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

9/8/1944

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

USA

Favorite Food

None

Short Description

Insurance chief executive Thomas L. McLeary (1944 - ) co-founded and served as the CEO of Endow, Incorporated, and helped form Premier Network Service Group, the first national African American property, casualty and financial services firm.

Employment

Prudential Insurance Company

Endow, Incorporated

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Thomas L. McLeary's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Thomas L. McLeary lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Thomas L. McLeary describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Thomas L. McLeary talks about his mother's teaching career

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Thomas L. McLeary describes his mother's upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Thomas L. McLeary describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Thomas L. McLeary describes his paternal family's experiences in the South

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Thomas McLeary remembers his father's dry cleaning business

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Thomas L. McLeary recalls the decline of his father's business

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Thomas L. McLeary describes his father's later years

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Thomas L. McLeary describes how his parents met

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Thomas L. McLeary talks about being an only child

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Thomas L. McLeary describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Thomas L. McLeary remembers his father's business difficulties

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Thomas L. McLeary recalls his introduction to the insurance industry

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Thomas L. McLeary describes the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Thomas L. McLeary recalls his early religious activities

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Thomas L. McLeary describes the Church of the Good Shepherd in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Thomas L. McLeary remembers Englewood High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Thomas L. McLeary remembers the gang activity at Englewood High School

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Thomas L. McLeary remembers the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Thomas L. McLeary remembers sports players at the Big Ten Conference

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Thomas L. McLeary recalls his academic difficulties at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Thomas L. McLeary recalls his decision to attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Thomas L. McLeary talks about his challenges in college

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Thomas L. McLeary recalls the recruitment of black students to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Thomas L. McLeary remembers avoiding the Vietnam War draft

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Thomas L. McLeary recalls joining the Prudential Insurance Company of America

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Thomas L. McLeary remembers his promotion to sales at the Prudential Insurance Company of America

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Thomas L. McLeary describes his career at the Prudential Insurance Company of America

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Thomas L. McLeary remembers John Lassiter

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Thomas L. McLeary describes the products offered by the Prudential Insurance Company of America

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Thomas L. McLeary describes his success at the Prudential Insurance Company of America

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Thomas L. McLeary recalls forming the Endow, Inc. insurance brokerage

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Thomas L. McLeary describes his role in the National Association of Life Underwriters

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Thomas L. McLeary recalls his children's sports activities

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Thomas L. McLeary talks about his clientele

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Thomas L. McLeary recalls meeting his wife

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Thomas L. McLeary describes the Chicago Minority Supplier Development Council

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Thomas L. McLeary talks about the Alliance of Business Leaders and Entrepreneurs, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Thomas L. McLeary talks about the Alliance of Business Leaders and Entrepreneurs, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Thomas L. McLeary describes his insurance certifications

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Thomas L. McLeary describes the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Thomas L. McLeary describes his business strategies

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Thomas L. McLeary talks about developing an insurance program for Native American tribes

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Thomas L. McLeary talks about the future of his insurance brokerage

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Thomas L. McLeary describes his business philosophy

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Thomas L. McLeary describes his concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Thomas L. McLeary describes his hopes for the black business community

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Thomas L. McLeary talks about his civic involvement

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Thomas L. McLeary describes his mentorship efforts

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Thomas L. McLeary reflects upon his commitment to community service

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Thomas L. McLeary reflects upon his career

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Thomas L. McLeary reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Thomas L. McLeary talks about his children's college education

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Thomas L. McLeary describes the importance of historically black colleges

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Thomas L. McLeary describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Thomas L. McLeary narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$4

DAStory

4$4

DATitle
Thomas L. McLeary talks about his challenges in college
Thomas L. McLeary recalls forming the Endow, Inc. insurance brokerage
Transcript
It was funny about six, seven years ago, I got this call from the University of Illinois [University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign-Urbana, Illinois]. For whatever reason, they offered back in the '60s [1960s], they offered lifetime membership into the alumni association for one hundred dollars. So I said why not you know. I had no real good feelings about the school but I said one hundred dollars why not? So I became a lifetime member of the alumni association. So for a number of years they have been calling me trying to get me, "Well you know that was a great deal but most of the people that took that one hundred dollar deal are paying the annual dues." And I said no (laughter). Got my one hundred dollars, my lifetime membership and that's it. So they sent this lady by, Larry [Larry Crowe], a nice little lady and she came by and she was reclaiming, you know graduates from the school of liberal arts and science who had not been active in years and you know a number of people gave her my name so she came by to see me and she said, "What was your most memorable experience at the University of Illinois?" And I sat there for a few minutes and I said, "I have no good memorable experiences from my four years at the University of Illinois." And I was just being honest. And that poor lady, she didn't know what to do or what to say. She--I guess nobody ever answered like that. But when I was down there you know there are places we couldn't get served on campus, we could not get our hair cut on campus, we could not go into any bar safely on campus. So it was almost total segregation at the University of Illinois when I was down there.$$This was 1961?$$Yeah. Yeah, we--the black students, the black boys had to go into Champaign [Illinois] to get their hair cut at the black barbershop and that was dangerous because the town kids did not like the university kids you know. So we had to ride our bikes in groups in to get our hair cut. And if they find--found out we had to just get up and go and the barbers were nice, they said, "You guys got about five minutes just get up and get in this--just get on out of here, we'll finish right quick do what we can do," and so it got to the point where--and didn't have money to come home. Even though you know I mean, you know my folks [Edna Tubbs Johns and Thomas J. McLeary, Jr.] didn't have money for me to take the train home. I don't know how much it cost but so once I left in September you know it was Christmas before I came back you know. Maybe every once in a while they would come get me for Thanksgiving but basically it was at least Thanksgiving before I would come home. So you got your hair cut when you left and you got your hair cut when you got back to Chicago [Illinois]. But it was rough. It was not, it was not a very good experience. I had a professor, I got a, I got a you know--I was taking this criminal justice course and I took the first exam and got like you know like all of his questions right. And he called me up and he said you know he said, "You know you did really good on this test." He said, "I'll tell you what. This is our deal," he said, "Just, it's just me," he said, "it's just personally I don't think I can ever give a black student more than a C." He said, "So I tell you what, you've got a C right now, you don't ever have to come to any of my classes. You don't have to take any exams. This will be our deal." He said, "You don't really need this course so you know it's just a credit you know to graduate." And that was, that was our deal so.$$Did you accept the deal?$$Absolutely. I had previously tried going to the administration with what I thought was discrimination. That was a worthless, worthless waste of time. I mean nobody was listening to anything. Nobody cared you know. I mean there were only a handful of us on campus at the time. Until '63 [1963] when they had this big program when they brought in a lot of black kids from Chicago and then, then you know social life changed.$And as I began building my business now, having you know being able to reach the--before I had to sell my customer the best Prudential [Prudential Life Insurance Company of America; Prudential Financial, Inc.] product, now I could sell my customer the best product regardless of where--what company it came from. And that made all the different in the world to me and so I began building my business. I formed my first corporation in 1978 because I needed an entity to contract with those other companies. I didn't wanna contract with me as an individual so I established a corporation with a friend [HistoryMaker Ann Smith]. She and I established this corporation and we, we began operating as a business. So for the first time now I'm operating as a business. Had my own secret--$$Is this Endow [Endow, Inc., Chicago, Illinois]?$$This is in Endow yeah, yeah. And Endow was first formed in--and again we went to a friend of ours who was not a, you know, not a corporate lawyer, he was just a you know a jack of all trades you know nice guy. For some reason he recommended that we established as a 501(C)(3), a tax exempt organization because our first customer under Endow was a university. They had--we had pitched them on setting up a charitable giving program where we would sell life insurance to their, to their graduates with the school as owner and beneficiary as a charitable gift to the school. So we needed a name to fit that sales strategy. So that's how Endow came about. We, we, we came up with the name Endow but he said, "Well since you're selling charitable stuff maybe you should you know be a 501(C)(3)," and we did. But it made absolutely no sense at all so we reformed in 1981 as a for-profit. So Endow actually started in '78 [1978] as a not-for-profit and then reformed in 1981 as a for-profit organization and at that point in time I had finished my year as president of the Chicago Association [Chicago Association of Life Underwriters] and I felt it just didn't make sense for me to stay you know an employee of the Prudential so I moved on and separated, had my own office, was no longer housed in the, in the agency. Had my own organization, hired my own people. And that's how I really got into the insurance business and that was the major step you know. Stepping out of the agency, you know having my own business, having to pay bills, having to hire employees, having to do all of those things. So that kind of got me, got me started.