Frank L. Gillespie

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Frank L. Gillespie
Frank L. Gillespie.jpg
Gillespie in 1925
BornNovember 8, 1876
Osceola, Arkansas
DiedMay 8, 1925
Chicago Illinois
ResidenceChicago, Illinois

Frank L. Gillespie (November 8, 1876 - May 8, 1925) was a businessman who created the first African American-owned life insurance agency outside of the U.S. southern states.[1][2] Gillespie had been an agent at Royal Life Insurance Company, a white-owned insurance agency, working in the "department for colored people" and noticed his customers were offered "inferior products."[3][2] He met with a group of prominent black businessmen in Chicago and they worked together to create an insurance company catering towards Chicago's professional African American population.[1]

His company, originally called Liberty Life Insurance—later called Supreme Liberty Life Insurance Company and finally Supreme Life Insurance Company—was incorporated in 1919 in Chicago.[2] and offered whole life insurance to individuals, not just industrial policies.[4][3] Gillespie worked hard to hire and train well-educated black agents, though sometimes he had to rely on part-timers who also worked in the postal service or the ministry.[1] The company's headquarters, the Supreme Life Building, was built in 1921 by architect Albert Anis and is a designated Chicago landmark.[5] Gillespie died as he was setting up the National Insurance Association, a professional association of black insurance firms.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Gillespie was the son of Charles and Mary (Felton) Gillespie.[6] He was married to Edreaner Poree of New Orleans, Louisiana. They had two children.[1]


By 1960, Supreme was the third largest life insurance company in the United States owned by African Americans.[7] The Gillespie Technology Magnet Cluster School in Chicago is named in his honor."[3]


  1. ^ a b c d e Ingham, John (1994). African-American business leaders : a biographical dictionary. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press. pp. 198–202. ISBN 0-313-27253-0. OCLC 27726874.
  2. ^ a b c "African Americans in the Insurance Business: Supreme Liberty Life Insurance Co". Black History Heroes. 1998-09-09. Retrieved 2019-02-10.
  3. ^ a b c "Welcome". Gillespie Technology Magnet Cluster School. 1999-12-31. Retrieved 2019-02-10.
  4. ^ "Frank Gillespie – Business Bio Summary". A Touch of 2019-02-10. Retrieved 2019-02-10.
  5. ^ "COC - Landmarks web". Landmark Details. 2011-01-16. Archived from the original on 2011-01-16. Retrieved 2019-02-10.CS1 maint: Unfit url (link)
  6. ^ "Frank L. Gillespie". FindAGrave. Retrieved 10 February 2019.
  7. ^ Puth, Robert C. (1969). "Supreme Life: The History of a Negro Life Insurance Company, 1919–1962". Business History Review. Cambridge University Press (CUP). 43 (01): 1–20. doi:10.2307/3111984. ISSN 0007-6805.