Serving Our Policyholders Since 1847
The original charter of Southern Mutual Insurance Company was issued by the Georgia Legislature on the 29th day of December, 1847. Of the active insurance companies in the South, only the Mutual Assurance Society of Virginia, founded in 1794, is older.
The charter authorized the Company “to insure for any time not exceeding ten years, any houses, goods, gin houses, or other species of property whatever; and also the lives of persons; from any damage or loss from fire, water or death, or other causes usually embraced in such corporations, not resulting from the carelessness, negligence or design of the party insured; and to any amount not exceeding Ten Thousand Dollars on any one block of buildings or stock of goods.
Before Southern Mutual was organized there was very little insurance written in Georgia. However, during this period property owners were increasingly viewing insurance as a necessity. The Reverend James U. Parsons from Cuthbert recognized the need for a Georgia-based insurance company owned by its policyholders, and his initiative led to the founding of Southern Mutual.
At the first meeting of the originators (January 25, 1848) the charter was accepted, by-laws adopted, officers elected, and the office of the Company was set at Griffin, Georgia. At the first Annual Meeting of policyholders (December 6, 1848) a large contingency from Athens, led by Young L.G. Harris and armed with proxies, controlled the voting and moved the office location to Athens where it has remained to this day.
Although Southern Mutual is known as a conservative company, it actually began in a very bold way, writing many different kinds of insurance. Old policies are in existence showing insurance issued on cotton or molasses in transportation via steamboats, cotton and lumber on river banks and other hazardous and uncertain risks for which there were no experience tables.
Southern Mutual has prospered through the years; however, there were a number of trying times which threatened its existence and caused the demise of most of the other Georgia insurance companies founded in the 1800’s. Conflagrations in Augusta in 1916 and in Atlanta in 1917 seriously weakened the Company, reducing its surplus by over 70%.
The Augusta fire destroyed more than 700 buildings, mostly dwellings including a large number of the finest homes in the city. The total loss to the insurance companies was about four million dollars, of which Southern Mutual was called upon to pay approximately $740,000 to policyholders (which, of course, would translate to multi-million dollars in claims in today’s economy). Within sixty days the full amount of the Company’s loss was paid in cash. Many other insurance companies were not able to meet their obligations. Southern Mutual’s prompt payment of losses enhanced the prestige the Company enjoyed throughout the State.
Through the last half of the 19th century the Company operated from offices located in downtown Athens, including a three-story brick building they constructed in 1876 on the corner of College and Clayton. In 1906 that building was moved “brick by brick” to Hancock and College to allow for the construction of a seven-story, 60,000 square feet office building, the largest ferro concrete office building in the South and a prime example of the commercial architecture of the period. This building was completed in 1908 and occupied by the Company until 1988 when the current building on Alps Road was completed and where the office remains to this day.
In July, 2000 the business was expanded to include South Carolina, and in 2009 Southern Mutual affiliated with The Donegal Insurance Group – thus adding the resources of a larger regional insurer to this local mutual company still based in the State of Georgia.
Although the directors, officers and staff are proud of Southern Mutual’s rich heritage, we are progressive minded. Our charge is to utilize skilled personnel and advanced technology to provide the best possible service to our agents and policyholders, while providing our customers with insurance at the lowest possible cost. Committed to a financially conservative philosophy, we at Southern Mutual are optimistic that in another 165 years a new generation will be able to trust their insurance needs to Southern Mutual Insurance Company.