Great Lakes Mutual Insurance
In 1928, John Roxborough, manager of Joe Louis, co-founded the Great Lakes Mutual Insurance Company, which was formed to ensure blacks had access to affordable insurance. When it was first formed, it had just 250 policyholders and capital amounting to $10,000.
Great Lakes was organized under the leadership of Colbert Sorbrian, a prominent black attorney. The executive committee consisted of some of the city’s most prominent black citizens including: Charles H. Mahoney, attorney and the first black man to serve as full delegate to the United Nations; Moses L. Walker, president of the Detroit Chapter of the NAACP, and chairman of the Ossian Sweet Case Defense Fund; Robert Greenridge, founder of Parkside Hospital, Fairview Sanatorium, Victory Loan and Investment Company, and Eastside Medical Laboratory; William Osby, chief engineer of the Madison-Lenox Hotel, and founder of the Detroit Chapter of the NAACP; and Louis Blount, president of the National Negro Insurance Association, and vice-president of the National Negro Business League.
Twenty months after it opened, the stock market crashed. Banks and lending agencies unable to meet their financial obligation to the public closed their doors. Refusing to close its doors, the company officers at Great Lakes used their personal monies to meet expenses and paid all claims. During the depression the company continued to write policies. By 1934 business improved. That same year, Great Lakes joined the National Negro Insurance Association. By year’s end, Great Lakes expanded and created two new companies: The Great Lakes Agency Company, which founded the Great Lakes Country Club in Holly, Michigan, for recreational use by blacks, and the Great Lakes Land and Investment Company, which purchased investment properties.
By the mid-1950s, the Great Lakes Insurance Company became the largest black-owned business in Michigan. According to its business records, it was a five million dollar institution with 106,000 customers and 275 employees.