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
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
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.