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Shelandra Y. Ford
Historical Markers of Shelby County

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Universal Life Insurance Building

Designed by the African-American architectural firm of McKissack and McKissack and constructed in 1949, this building houses the national headquarters of the Universal Life Insurance Company. The Egyptian-Revival style of this building is an ongoing example of the interest that African Americans developed in the 1920s in Egyptian art. During the era of racial segregation, it was one of the few places where Blacks could gather for their civic and social affairs. (continued on other side) Founded in 1923 by Dr. J.E. Walker, with co-founders A.W. Willis, Sr., and M.W. Bonner, this family business grew to be the fourth largest African-American-owned life insurance company in the United States. Dr. Walker's son, A. Maceo Walker, continued the business from 1952 until 1983. He was succeeded by his daughter, Patricia Walker Shaw, who ran it until her death in 1985. Descendants of all three families made significant contributions to the company's growth.