The American Fidelity History
From A Humble Start to A National Pacesetter

C.W. Cameron, and his son, C.B. Cameron, started AFA In 1960 as an outgrowth of an Insurance agency C.W. had operated since 1930. The elder Cameron’s humble beginnings make the present-day success of the company all the more remarkable.

The oldest of seven children, C.W. was raised on a small tenant farm near Mangum, Oklahoma. When his father was disabled, C.W. dropped out of school at age 14 to help take care of the family and run the farm. He later worked odd jobs as a carpenter, cotton picker, and part-time bank clerk.

C.W. worked his way up to assistant cashier at the First National Bank of Altus, earning $135 a month. He noticed that Insurance salesmen seemed to bring in larger paychecks, so he decided to try that line of work. He partnered with a farmer in starting the Boise and Cameron agency in 1930. The business prospered until the Great Depression took its toll, forcing Boise to leave the agency in 1932.

Using his savings, C.W. bought one-third of an agency In Davidson and sold fire and casualty and disability Insurance. He also sold Insurance for other firms, but his big break came when he started selling insurance for North American Accident and Health Insurance Company of Chicago in 1933. C.W. sold his interest in the Davidson agency and became the local agent for North American. Two years later he moved to Oklahoma City to become North American’s general agent for the state of Oklahoma. In a short time, C.W. distinguished himself as the top-selling agent managing the most profitable North American branch in the nation. By the mid- 1940s, he was the general agent for four states.

Much of Cameron’s success was the result of pioneering efforts to make insurance available to the working class. He was an early leader in voluntary payroll deduction insurance, known today as worksite marketing. Cameron sold group accident and health insurance to state agency employees and to trade associations. His agency was also one of the first of its kind to offer insurance to schoolteachers. Building on that beginning, AFA is now the largest provider of voluntary disability insurance to teachers across the United States.

The North American Company in Chicago experienced changes in ownership in the 1950s and was eventually acquired by the CIT Group. Since CIT wanted to focus on selling individual insurance, Cameron proposed that he take on all of the accident and health business previously handled by the Cameron Agency for North American. His son, C.B., had recently returned home from the Air Force, and the pair decided to start their own Insurance underwriter. In 1960, American Fidelity was born.

Their new company grew very rapidly until, at the height of their personal and professional success, the Cameron family’s world literally crashed in 1977 when a Thanksgiving plane flight turned deadly. Returning from a Colorado family ski trip, the plane slammed into a mountainside and two days went by before rescue teams found the passengers. C. B. died in the accident and the rest of his family, their friends and the pilot were severely injured.

After the death of his son, C.W. Cameron promoted William E. Durrett to President of AFA. Following C .W.‘s death in 1991, Durrett became Chairman of the Board, a position held until 1998 when he moved to Senior Chairman and Bill Cameron became the Chairman of the Board. During the tenure of Durrett and CFO (and later President) John Rex, the company built a strong financial base and grew rapidly.

C.B.’s son Bill started working in AFA following a two-year period at Liberty Bank where he began work after graduating from Dartmouth In 1982. In 1987, Bill led the recapitalization efforts for Commercial Bank that has subsequently become First Fidelity Bank, which is affiliated with AFA through the Cameron family’s ownership.

In the 21st century, AFA has continued to grow rapidly with continued strong internal growth plus the acquisitions of Mid-Continent Life and American Public Life in 2000. It has also planted the seeds for future expansion, through the establishment of other areas: the Latin American Life Division that sells insurance in 17 countries in Latin America; Pacific World Group, which brokers property and casualty insurance in Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong; and Asset Servlces/InvesTrust, which provides investment management consulting and Independent trust services.