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Great Lakes Mutual Insurance 

In 1928, John Roxborough, manager of Joe Louis, co-founded the Great Lakes Mutual Insurance Company. The company aimed to provide affordable insurance options for black individuals. Initially, it had just 250 policyholders and a capital amounting to $10,000.

Great Lakes was organized under the leadership of Colbert Sorbrian, a prominent black attorney. The executive committee comprised some of the city’s most prominent black citizens, including Charles H. Mahoney, the first black man to serve as a 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 its establishment, the stock market crashed, leading banks and lending agencies to close their doors due to financial obligations. Despite this, Great Lakes refused to close its doors. The company officers used their personal funds to meet expenses and fulfill all claims. Throughout the depression, the company continued to write policies. By 1934, business began to improve, prompting Great Lakes to join the National Negro Insurance Association. By the year’s end, the company expanded and established two new entities: 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 had become 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.

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