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James O. Webb

Former Glencoe, Illinois Mayor and insurance industry veteran James O. Webb, Jr. was born on November 25, 1931 in Cleveland, Ohio to Bessie Eubanks and James O. Webb, Sr. Webb attended Miles Standish, Empire and Glenville high schools in Cleveland, then graduated from Morehouse College in 1953 with his B.A. degree. He served two years active duty in the Korean War and spent six years as a member of the U.S. Army Reserve.

In 1954, Webb married Frankie L. Lowe in Atlanta, Georgia, where the couple lived across the street from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Webb graduated from the University of Michigan in 1957 with a M.B.A. in actuarial science in 1957, the same year as the birth of his daughter, Pamela. In 1957, Webb worked as a Management Trainee Actuarial Assistant for Mutual of New York. Six years later, he joined Supreme Life Insurance, the first African American-owned and operated insurance company in the northern United States.

Webb moved to Illinois Blue Cross & Blue Shield in 1966 and held numerous positions. He began as an assistant actuary, and was promoted to Assistant VP-Product Development, where he helped to develop a new product line. Webb also designed the first Illinois HMO, as well as a national think tank for Blue Cross & Blue Shield executives called the Business Development Institute.

In 1967, Webb’s family moved to Glencoe, Illinois, a village in Cook County and became one of the few African American families to live in that area. Webb became treasurer for the American Academy of Actuaries in 1977, and in 1984, Webb joined the Dental Network of America, where he served as Chairman, President and CEO. There, he helped to guide the organization’s growth into the leading managed dental care company in the United States.

In 1993, after being encouraged to run for public office, Webb was elected mayor of Glencoe, Illinois, where he would remain for two full four-year terms. He successfully tripled the village’s tax income while overseeing certain land acquisition projects. Webb also helped enact ordinances for tree preservation and a teenage smoking ban. He left Dental Network of America in 1994 and became Director of Harris Bank, where he would remain until 2001. That same year, Webb retired from his position as Mayor of Glencoe and moved to North Carolina, where he lives with his daughter. In 2006, Webb became a member of the Durham, North Carolina Arts Council Board of Trustees.

Webb was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on February 12, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.061

Sex

Male

Interview Date

2/12/2007 |and| 3/8/2007 |and| 4/25/2007

Last Name

Webb

Middle Name

O.

Schools

Case-Woodland Elementary School

Glenville High School

Miles Standish Elementary School

Empire Junior High School

Morehouse College

University of Michigan

First Name

James

Birth City, State, Country

Cleveland

HM ID

WEB06

Favorite Season

Christmas

Sponsor

Edward J. Williams

State

Ohio

Favorite Vacation Destination

Hawaii, the Beach

Favorite Quote

I Always Listen To Advice. It Is Needless To Refuse It. Besides The Giver May Be Nice And I Don't Have To Use It.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

North Carolina

Interview Description
Birth Date

11/25/1931

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Durham

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Fried Chicken, Bacon

Short Description

Insurance executive and mayor James O. Webb (1931 - ) served as Chairman, President and CEO of Dental Network of America, and as mayor of Glencoe, Illinois for two consecutive terms.

Employment

Dunbar Life Insurance Company

New York Life Insurance Company

Supreme Life Insurance Company of America

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois

Dental Network of America, LLC

James O. Webb & Associates, Inc.

Mayor of Glencoe, Illinois

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of James O. Webb's interview, session 1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - James O. Webb lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - James O. Webb describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - James O. Webb describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - James O. Webb describes his father's career

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - James O. Webb talks about his ancestry

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - James O. Webb describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - James O. Webb remembers his neighborhoods in Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - James O. Webb talks about his schooling

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - James O. Webb recalls his early experiences of racial discrimination

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - James O. Webb remembers the holidays with his family

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - James O. Webb remembers the public housing in Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - James O. Webb recalls his early interest in reading

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - James O. Webb remembers Miles Standish Elementary School in Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - James O. Webb describes the Glenville neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - James O. Webb describes his parents' relationship

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - James O. Webb talks about his mother's education

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - James O. Webb talks about his sister

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - James O. Webb recalls winning a contest at Empire Junior High School in Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - James O. Webb remembers the influence of his neighbor

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - James O. Webb talks about growing up in a majority-white neighborhood

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - James O. Webb recalls his father's influence

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - James O. Webb talks about his parents' relationship

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - James O. Webb remembers graduating from Glenville High School in Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - James O. Webb describes his first experience of discrimination in the South

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - James O. Webb recalls an experience of discrimination at his part time job

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - James O. Webb remembers an instance of discrimination on a bus in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - James O. Webb describes his first impressions of Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - James O. Webb recalls his academic focus at Morehouse College

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - James O. Webb remembers the chapel services at Morehouse College

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - James O. Webb remembers Morehouse College President Benjamin Mays

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - James O. Webb recalls his mentors at Morehouse College

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - James O. Webb remembers his classmates at Morehouse College

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - James O. Webb reflects upon the racial discrimination in the South

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - James O. Webb recalls his confinement to the campus of Morehouse College

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - James O. Webb describes his impressions of Benjamin Mays

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - James O. Webb remembers his mischief at Morehouse College

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - James O. Webb recalls his decision to remain at Morehouse College

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - James O. Webb recalls his sophomore year at Morehouse College

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - James O. Webb recalls pledging to the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - James O. Webb remembers changing his major to business

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - James O. Webb recalls his graduation from Morehouse College

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - James O. Webb reflects upon his experiences in the South, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - James O. Webb reflects upon his experiences in the South, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - James O. Webb describes his activities as an alumnus of Morehouse College

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - James O. Webb remembers his senior year at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - James O. Webb remembers meeting his wife

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - James O. Webb recalls working for the Dunbar Life Insurance Company

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - James O. Webb describes his wife's family background

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - James O. Webb talks about his wife's relationship with the King family

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - James O. Webb remembers meeting Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - James O. Webb describes his wedding

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - James O. Webb recalls being stationed in Anchorage, Alaska

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - James O. Webb recalls his return from U.S. military service

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - James O. Webb describes the actuarial science program at the University of Michigan

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - James O. Webb talks about the early African American actuaries

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - James O. Webb describes the actuarial profession

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - James O. Webb remembers his experiences of hiring discrimination

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - James O. Webb describes his position at the Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - James O. Webb recalls his recruitment to the Supreme Life Insurance Company of America

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - James O. Webb remembers the birth of his children

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - James O. Webb describes his experiences at the Supreme Life Insurance Company of America

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - James O. Webb recalls joining the staff of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - James O. Webb recalls moving to Glencoe, Illinois

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - James O. Webb describes his career at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - James O. Webb describes his role at the American Academy of Actuaries

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - James O. Webb talks about the opportunities for African Americans in actuarial science

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - James O. Webb describes his activism in Glencoe, Illinois

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - James O. Webb describes his role on the school board in Glencoe, Illinois

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - James O. Webb recalls joining the Dental Network of America, LLC, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - James O. Webb recalls joining the Dental Network of America, LLC, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - James O. Webb recalls his mayoral campaign in Glencoe, Illinois

Tape: 7 Story: 10 - James O. Webb describes his achievements as the mayor of Glencoe, Illinois

Tape: 7 Story: 11 - James O. Webb describes his children's involvement in the community

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - James O. Webb narrates his photographs

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Slating of James O. Webb's interview, session 2

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - James O. Webb recalls discrimination as treasurer of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - James O. Webb reflects upon his position as the treasurer of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - James O. Webb recalls becoming the CEO of the Dental Network of America, LLC

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - James O. Webb reflects upon his experiences at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - James O. Webb talks about the changes in the healthcare industry

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - James O. Webb describes the growth of the healthcare industry

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - James O. Webb talks about the history of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - James O. Webb recalls the acquisition of the Dental Network of America, LLC

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - James O. Webb remembers the growth of the Dental Network of America, LLC

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - James O. Webb reflects upon the growth of the Dental Network of America, LLC

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - James O. Webb describes his role in the Chicago Caucus, pt. 1

Tape: 9 Story: 8 - James O. Webb describes his role in the Chicago Caucus, pt. 2

Tape: 9 Story: 9 - James O. Webb describes the Chicago Forum

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - James O. Webb remembers Eleanor Petersen

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - James O. Webb recalls his role with the Chicago Black United Fund

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - James O. Webb reflects upon the impact of the Chicago Forum

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - James O. Webb talks about race relations in Corporate America

Tape: 10 Story: 5 - James O. Webb describes the Home Investments Fund

Tape: 10 Story: 6 - James O. Webb reflects upon the success of the Home Investments Fund, pt. 1

Tape: 10 Story: 7 - James O. Webb reflects upon the success of the Home Investments Fund, pt. 2

Tape: 10 Story: 8 - James O. Webb remembers purchasing a home in Glencoe, Illinois

Tape: 10 Story: 9 - James O. Webb describes his neighborhood in Glencoe, Illinois

Tape: 10 Story: 10 - James O. Webb recalls his civic activities in Glencoe, Illinois

Tape: 10 Story: 11 - James O. Webb remembers his recruitment as a mayoral candidate in Glencoe, Illinois

Tape: 10 Story: 12 - James O. Webb describes the notable African American families in Glencoe, Illinois

Tape: 11 Story: 1 - Slating of James O. Webb's interview, session 3

Tape: 11 Story: 2 - James O. Webb talks about moving to Glencoe, Illinois

Tape: 11 Story: 3 - James O. Webb describes the community of Glencoe, Illinois

Tape: 11 Story: 4 - James O. Webb describes the African American community on the North Shore of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 11 Story: 5 - James O. Webb talks about his interest in the community of Glencoe, Illinois

Tape: 11 Story: 6 - James O. Webb describes the changes in Glencoe, Illinois

Tape: 11 Story: 7 - James O. Webb talks about raising children in Glencoe, Illinois

Tape: 11 Story: 8 - James O. Webb reflects upon his role on the school board of Glencoe, Illinois

Tape: 11 Story: 9 - James O. Webb recalls being approached to run for mayor of Glencoe, Illinois

Tape: 11 Story: 10 - James O. Webb describes the system of government in Glencoe, Illinois

Tape: 12 Story: 1 - James O. Webb describes his experiences as mayor of Glencoe, Illinois

Tape: 12 Story: 2 - James O. Webb talks about his achievements as mayor of Glencoe, Illinois

Tape: 12 Story: 3 - James O. Webb describes the election process in Glencoe, Illinois

Tape: 12 Story: 4 - James O. Webb recalls his initiatives as the mayor of Glencoe, Illinois

Tape: 12 Story: 5 - James O. Webb talks about the development of downtown Glencoe, Illinois

Tape: 12 Story: 6 - James O. Webb remembers directing the board of the Harris Trust and Savings Bank

Tape: 12 Story: 7 - James O. Webb reflects upon his corporate board membership

Tape: 12 Story: 8 - James O. Webb talks about his role at Bank-Eubanks, LLC

Tape: 12 Story: 9 - James O. Webb reflects upon the racial progress in Corporate America

Tape: 13 Story: 1 - James O. Webb talks about the opportunities for African Americans in Corporate America

Tape: 13 Story: 2 - James O. Webb describes the importance of mentorship in Corporate America

Tape: 13 Story: 3 - James O. Webb describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 13 Story: 4 - James O. Webb reflects upon his legacy

DASession

1$3

DATape

3$12

DAStory

1$4

DATitle
James O. Webb describes his first experience of discrimination in the South
James O. Webb recalls his initiatives as the mayor of Glencoe, Illinois
Transcript
Now we're on our way to Morehouse [Morehouse College, Atlanta, Georgia]. What preparation did you mother [Bessie Eubanks Webb] give you for going to the South?$$You know, I, I, I don't recall, but I don't, I, I don't want to say none, because I'm sure she must have said some things to me. But, you know, being seventeen years old, I didn't hear most of it (laughter). And I went down there. There was another fellow that had been accepted to Morehouse from Cleveland [Ohio], and so we went together; in those days obviously the train. And I got into trouble as soon as I got there.$$What happened?$$The--we got off the train, and a couple of upperclassmen met us at the train. And as we were walking out of the train station, you know how you walk along the platform and we passed the flatbed car. And there was a fellow, a white fellow there handling the trunks. And I just happened to glance up, and he was handling my trunk. And so I told the fellows, I said, "Wait a second." And I said, "When do you think that'll be delivered to the school?" And he ignored me. And so I, I said it again: "When do you think they'll be delivered to the school?" He said, "Are you talking to me, boy?" I said, "Yeah, I'm talking to you," (laughter), you know. And then by that time, the upperclassmen, one grabbed each arm and just sort of lifted me up and walked me out of the train station. And when we got outside they said, "You just don't do that; you do not talk to him." I said, "He was handling my trunk. All I wanted to know--I asked him a decent question. All I wanted to know is when the trunk was gonna be delivered." And he said, "You don't talk to him." And so there were a number of other incidents that occurred. And, and finally, I was called into the dean's [Brailsford Reese Brazeal] office, and they confined me to thirteen acres of Morehouse campus for my own safety for the next six months. So for six months I couldn't go off campus unless I had an upperclassman with me.$$Now what year was this?$$That was in 1949.$The other question I have for you is what were some of your other key initiatives, things that you were proud of that happened in those eight years [as mayor]?$$Well, the first was the reason that the two fellows that, that the village manager [Robert Morris] and the president [Roland Calhoun] came to me and asked me to run. I saw that as a, a real challenge because the community was in, in turmoil. And, and quite honestly, up until that time, I had not gotten into that fray at all, and so I was, I just watched it as an observer. And so I had not taken a public position on, on, on the issue at all. So it gave me a certain objectivity, where it allowed me to present myself as an objective individual in getting, in getting the matter resolved. And we did get it resolved, and, and there were a number of things that we did. We, we took a fresh look at the, at the project as to the recommendation. And again, I, I used the method of, of involving the community. Again, we involved, I don't think it was a hundred people, but quite a few in studying different aspects of the, of the issue and coming up with recommendations. And so in the final analysis, the, the recommendation was the, was the recommendation of the community that came to the, to the council for their action. The other thing that helped at that particular time, 1994 was 125th anniversary of the founding of Glencoe [Illinois]. And so we decided that we would make this a twelve month celebration, positive celebration. And every Thanksgiving, for example, we would have an ecumenical service in one of the temples or one of the churches. And we put together a choir, 125 voice choir, representing the 125 years from all of the churches in Glencoe, and there are quite a few, all of the churches and temples in Glencoe. And it was absolutely beautiful, and we had a wonderful Thanksgiving ecumenical service and, and things like this. Then we had an annual banquet at the botanic garden [Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe, Illinois], where the entire community was invited, celebrating our 125th. We had contests for children to come up with a logo celebrating the 125th. It was won by one of our residents, a little girl. I think she was in the seventh grade. And we made it into buttons and these kinds of things. So, it was, it was a good feeling. By the end of our, of 1994, it was--people had a good feeling about their community. And so now we were then able to begin to work on some other more positive things.$$Well, you were also, you know, in a leadership position and running things. And this was--you had already left Corporate America at this point, right, 1990, yeah, not?$$It was, it was a little bit of an overlap--$$It was a little bit over.$$--but not much.$$Okay, okay, okay, okay. I mean but you were able to--you--it wasn't like a part time situation, was it, this whole--$$Oh yes, yes. The present--$$Okay, okay.$$--it--the president does not need to spend forty hours a week.$$Oh, I see.$$As a matter of fact, if he did, he'd be micromanaging too much. I would say that I, I, I'd probably put in twenty-five hours a week between just the social aspects and, and, and working with the council, and with the community, and then, and, and of course, with the village manager. So I'd, I'd say it was a good twenty-five hours a week.