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(L to R: John Merrick, Charles Clinton Spaulding, Dr Aaron. M. Moore

On the first of April 1899 the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company opened for business in Durham, North Carolina. The first month’s collections, after the payment of commissions, amounted only to $1.12, but from such beginnings North Carolina Mutual grew to be the largest African American managed financial institution in the United States.

Durham at the beginning of the twentieth century was fertile ground for the growth of such an enterprise. Forced out of politics by the successful “White Supremacy” political campaign of 1898, Durham’s African American leaders turned their talents to the business world instead. The African American community of Durham was relatively prosperous and enjoyed better relations with its white counterpart than prevailed in many other communities in the state. The idea of an insurance company, moreover, fit in naturally with a tradition among African Americans of self-help, mutual aid societies or fraternities. John Merrick, born into slavery in 1859, had become by the late 1890s a business success in Durham. Owner of half a dozen barber shops and a real estate business, Merrick was also a member of the Grand United Order of True Reformers, a mutual benefit society organized in Richmond in 1881 which had expanded into insurance and banking. In 1898 Merrick brought together six of Durham’s leading black business and professional men and organized North Carolina Mutual. Guided by the “triumvirate” of John Merrick, Dr. Aaron M. Moore, and Charles Clinton Spaulding, “The Company with a Soul and a Service” survived the hardship of its first years to achieve success and help make Durham’s reputation as a center of African American economic life.


Walter B. Weare, Black Business in the New South: A Social History of the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance ompany (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1973).


John Merrick

John Merrick, co-founder of the North Carolina Life Mutual Insurance Company, was born in slavery on Sept. 7, 1859, came to Durham as a barber in 1880, became pioneer business leader and financier. 

Honesty, hard work, thrift, and shrewd judgement marked his rise from barber to business man. He early established friendship with the Dukes, Carrs, and other monied people of Durham, from whom he learned much. 

From small beginnings in real estate, he gradually spread his interests until at the time of his death on August 6, 1919. He was generally recognized as the outstanding Negro business leader of the South.


Contributed by Andre Vann, Durham Historian

Dr. Aaron M. Moore

Dr. Aaron M. Moore, co-founder of the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company, was pre-eminent among the Negro leaders of Durham, deeply imbued with the spirit of public service. 

Born during the Civil War, September 6, 1863, he came to Durham in 1888, saved his money ($1 per visit, when and if collected), and won the respect and confidence of all people. Dr. Moore¹s efforts were seen in every move for the betterment of his race, many of which he initiated. He founded Lincoln Hospital in 1901, through the generosity of the Duke family. 

In 1913 he founded Sunday School Library at White Rock Baptist Church, in 1916 developed it into the S.L.Warren Public Library. In addition to NC Mutual, he was also one of the founders of the Mechanics & Farmers Bank, Bull City Drug Store and other interests. An idealist who never strived after wealth, he was successful in a material way. 

He never abandoned the practice of medicine, and his life was devoted to the service of his people and to the city. He died April 29, 1923. 


Contributed by Andre Vann, Durham Historian

Charles Clinton Spaulding

Charles Clinton Spaulding (a.k.a. "C.C. Spaulding"), served as president of North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company and prominent as a civic and business leader, was born near Clarkton, NC, August 1, 1874, the son of Benjamin M. and Margaret Moore Spaulding. 

From childhood, he was fired with an ambition that unfitted him for farm life, so while still a youth, he journeyed to Durham, NC, where he worked at odd jobs in order that his desire for a better education might be realized. On being graduated from Whitted High School in 1898, he felt that at least the first step on the road to a more useful life had been taken. 

Soon after his graduation, John Merrick and Dr. Aaron Moore brought him into the fledging firm that later developed into the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company. He served the company in various capacities- agent, clerk, janitor and general manager. Largely as the result of his initiative and unswerving spirit of honesty and fair dealing, that from the beginning, had characterized the activities of the promoters. 

The company has achieved a foremost position among life insurance companies of America that are owned and operated by African Americans.


Contributed by Andre Vann, Durham Historian

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"Success Story"A short film about the "Mutual" that was a featured trailer in black movie theaters circa 1940.

Officers of the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company in 1911.

Officers of the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company in 1911. 

Officers of the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company in 1911.

Asa Spaulding cutting the ribbon at the NCMLI building. 

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