Fun fact about insurance you may not know: there actually is an Insurance Hall of Fame.
Seriously. If you’re heading south or east on your way to a popular vacation destination like Walt Disney World and you have the time to make a quick detour through Tuscaloosa, Alabama, you can stretch your legs and maybe a get a drink of water or a package of peanuts or peanut butter crackers while learning all about the history of the American insurance industry. After you work your way through the Crimson Tide football Hall of Fame–otherwise known as the entirety of the 100 mile radius surrounding the campus of the University of Alabama–all that is required is tracking down the location of Mary Hewell Alston Hall within the Culverhouse College of Commerce & Business Administration. There you will find the Insurance Hall of Fame Museum.
More fun facts about the Insurance Hall of Fame: it was founded by a legendary figure in the world of insurance. Sure, you may not know him from Opus the Penguin’s friend Binkley in the comic strip “Bloom County” but this man is credited with being the foremost insurance industry pioneer in the field of risk management. Professor John S. Bickley also revolutionized insurance by strengthening its ties to the world of academia. As you might expect, the founder of the Insurance Hall of Fame is also an inductee. Which leads to another fun fact.
Within the hallowed halls of the Insurance Hall of Fame, inductees are known as “laureates.” Just like those who travel to Stockholm every year to pick up their Nobel Prize. The names of many of the other Insurance Hall of Fame laureates may be no more familiar to most people outside the industry than John S. Bickley himself. But then again, if the names Clarence Kulp, Haley Fiske and Albert Henry Mowbray mean nothing to you, shouldn’t that be taken as a sign that you really do need to visit the Insurance Hall of Fame. After all, a mind is a terrible thing to waste and knowledge is power.
On the other hand, perhaps the most fun fact to be found concerning the Insurance Hall of Fame is that Benjamin Franklin is one of its laureates. Seriously, is there no industry that existed in the 1700s in which Benjamin Franklin wasn’t a pioneer? If baseball had been around when the states were still known as colonies, you can bet that Ben Franklin would today be honored up in Cooperstown. Head to Tuscaloosa to discover why Ben is a laureate. Hint: while he lost out on being Father of His Country, he did become the Father of American Insurance. Who knew?
Much like other Halls, the Insurance Hall of Fame is a museum filled with memorabilia, historical information and portraits of its inductees. And, just like every other Hall of Fame, the Insurance Hall of Fame has its controversy. While Cooperstown must wrestle with whether or not to induct cheaters and while the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has yet to explain what Grandmaster Flash actually has to do with rock & roll, the biggest controversy surrounding the Insurance Hall of Fame is the notable absence of Walter Neff among its laureates.
Final fun fact: if you recognize that pop culture reference, then you will probably enjoy a trip to the Insurance Hall of Fame more than most.