The National Life and Accident Insurance Company was founded in 1900 in Nashville, Tennessee. It was one of the first companies to offer life insurance and accident insurance policies to the general public. The company was acquired by the Unum Group in 1999 and has since grown to become one of the largest providers of life and accident insurance in the United States. The company offers a wide range of life and accident insurance products, including term life, whole life, universal life, disability, long-term care, and group plans. The company also offers annuities and other financial services.

National Life and Accident Insurance Company

American insurance company (1900-1982)
not to be confused with National Life Insurance Company.
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(February 2018)

The National Life and Accident Insurance Company is an ex life insurance company headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee.

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National Life and Accident began in 1900 as the National Association of Diseases and Accidentsan mutual company. It was reorganized as a stock company and adopted the name National Life shortly thereafter. It was purchased by the American General Corporation in 1982.

National Life & Accident’s motto was “We Shield Millions”. The call letters of the radio station”WSM“, seen in the microphones of the Grand Ole Opry, reflected the motto of National Life; the insurance company owned the radio station and the Opry until the 1980s.

“Sickness and accident” policies

In December 1901 the National Sick and Accident Association was sold to C.A. Craig to liquidate an estate. By 1902, the company was nearly insolvent. In the early years, the company’s business consisted primarily of low-premium, low-benefit “sickness and accident” policies, which is a form of inability insurance that paid the holder a stated amount for each week he was unable to work due to illness or injury. To prevent fraud, the amount of the benefit was limited to slightly less than the insured person’s regular income. The vast majority of policies, particularly in the early years, were sold on the “debit system” (also called “home service insurance”), which meant that a insurance agent company employee, usually the salesperson, made periodic visits to the customer’s home to collect the premium (and usually tried to sell more insurance). The frequency of these visits was typically weekly in the early years; in recent years, collection visits were more frequent on a fortnightly or monthly basis. Most of the company’s customers were african-American.

Industrial life and accidental death and dismemberment insurance

The company soon expanded into “industrial life insurance”, so called because it was usually aimed at industrial workers, which was also sold on the debit system, and accidental death and dismemberment insurance, which instead of a weekly income paid an amount fixed and declared. , if the insured died by accident or lost sight or the use of an eye or limb. Industrial life insurance plans were generally small amounts: typically $250, $500, or $1,000 for the first few years. They presented double indemnity for accidental loss of life, which may be triple compensation or even more if the death occurs as a result of a public transport accident. For this reason, these plans were often derided by their detractors as “tram safe.”


The company gradually expanded its operations to the south-East Coast and eventually covered most of the continental United States except the northeast, the rocky mountain states, and the pacific northwest. It also began taking out “regular life” insurance for better risks, such as middle class office workers, religious ministersaccountants and bankers.

Its greatest marketing development was the beginning of WSM radio on October 5, 1925. Taking office indicative from the company motto, Çand sshield Mmillion (which in turn was stripped of its shield form logo), the station broadcast advertisingincluding messages from the company itself, through its powerful 1,000-watt station, which in January 1927 increased to 5,000 watts and, in November 1932, increased to 50 watts. kilowattclean channel” station (meaning that no other station could transmit on that frequency overnight). Its studios were initially in the National Life office building in downtown Nashville at Seventh and Union Streets. On November 28, 1925, the administration started the program that soon became the Grand Ole Opry, who has Country music (then commonly called “bumpkin music”) a regional and eventually national cultural phenomenon. On September 25, 1950, the company created Nashville’s first television station, WSM-TV (now WSMV-TV).

Evolution and acquisition

US life insurers faced a crisis with the arrival of the Great Depression in 1929. Like many of them, National Life survived by offering its customers policy loans against the cash values ​​of plans. With Second World War another crisis came due to the shortage of labor caused by the recruitment. In some areas premium collection, at least on a weekly basis, had to be reduced (gasoline rationing was a factor) and many customers who were used to having their premiums collected personally by an agent found themselves having to take the initiative to mail in your premiums or lose your coverage.

By the mid-1960s, the company had outgrown its central office in downtown Nashville. It had also been overshadowed by one of its main competitors, the Tennessee Life and Casualty Insurance Company (“L&C”), whose 31 floors skyscraper in 1957 it was briefly Nashville’s only skyscraper and the tallest building in the Southeast. The new National Life building, across the street from the Tennessee State Capitolit was 30 stories tall and considerably larger and located on higher ground, so it appeared to be larger than its rival, as intended.

At that point, the TV WSM’s studios (which began in 1950 as Nashville’s first television station) moved to West Nashville near the station’s broadcast tower in 1963; radio stations followed in 1966. In 1969 a plan was announced to build a theme park on the property of rudy’s farma sausage business located in Pennington Bend Cumberland River. The park opened in 1972 as “Opryland USA.” In addition to the usual selection of thrill rides and “kids rides”, the park featured shows from a variety of genres. american music, not just country. Construction began on the new Grand Ole Opry House more or less at the same time, and the Opry left the decay Ryman Auditorium for the new facility in March 1974.

At the time of the home office move, National Life reorganized itself as a holding“NLT Corporation” (NLT) with the “NL” standing for “National Life” and the “T” standing for Third National Bank, a leading Nashville bank (acquired in the 1990s by SunTrust). Banking laws and regulations at the time prevented the takeover of Third National, but the holding company was retained.

Another development of the 1970s was the phasing out of weekly prizes; the former weekly premium was multiplied by 4.3 and became the monthly premium for the same coverage.

In the early 1980s, HoustonAmerican General Corporation (AGC), another insurance holding company, announced a hostile takeover bidding for NLT. NLT made a counter-offer to buy AGC. In 1982, AGC, which had owned rival Nashville’s L&C since the 1960s, prevailed. Having acquired NLT, AGC merged former rivals over the next decade and dismembered NLT’s “non-core” assets, particularly its entertainment properties. The Grand Ole Opry, Opryland theme park, WSM and new cable television network The Nashville Network (TNN) were sold for what became Gaylord Entertainment Company and later, ViacomCBS. American General would later merge with the New York-based American International Group (AIG). His division of the corporation retained the american general brand.

In the late 1990s, the National Life/American General building was sold to the state of tennessee and became the William R. Snodgrass Tennessee TowerNamed in honor of the former state controller.


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