Tom Johnson, the former executive vice president of the Florida Association of Insurance Agents from 1948 to 1986, passed away in his sleep at 7:05 p.m. April 8 with his family and a few close friends at his bedside. Johnson was at FAIA’s helm for 37 years.
According to an FAIA spokesperson, Johnson’s passing marks the end of an era for the association and the entire agency system. Although he had many offers, including one from the national association, Tom never aspired to any other job but the one he had at FAIA.
Immensely dedicated, Johnson was once hospitalized after working 17 straight years without a vacation or a Saturday off. Any wonder that during his tenure, FAIA grew from a 560-member club, into a multimillion-dollar trade association whose Tallahassee meetings were sometimes attended by 15 or more national company CEOs and whose conventions were bigger than many national trade groups.
As FAIA’s first lobbyist, Johnson authored many of Florida’s insurance laws. He drafted the strongest Agents’ Qualification Law in the country, the first anti-coercion statute, anti-rebating statute, a controlled business prohibition, and the strongest statutory prohibition against banks selling insurance.
He wrote the law requiring driver education in all Florida high schools. He brought Florida a uniquely strong no-fault law, wage loss workers’ compensation law, and he worked with the FAIA Board in bringing the country’s first automation to independent agents with a batch-by-mail accounting system and later by providing the first electronically updated multi-company rating system in America.
Johnson pushed the development of numerous publications like the Florida Underwriting Guide, the Rapid Rater, the Agency Personnel Trainer, and other useful tools to help independent agents compete with direct writers. He put together the country’s first state association education department, with a director and a full time staff of educators. At a time when other state agents associations had an executive director and a secretary or two, Johnson’s FAIA staff numbered almost 65.
Johnson established the Florida Manifestos—the first of a kind coalition between agents and companies that focused attention on the agency system’s loss of market share to direct writers. His manifestos gave credence to innovative competitive tools such as direct billing and the creation of a simplified business-owners policy for independent agents. He toured the country challenging ISO to simplify its procedures and to reduce its 22 rate manuals for independent agents. Ultimately, it was his FAIA staff that developed the prototype for ISO’s commercial and personal lines manuals in use across the country today.
FAIA established the Tom C. Johnson Scholarship award in 1986. It is presented annually to the FSU insurance student who best exemplifies Tom’s commitment to high-quality insurance education, willingness to challenge popular opinion, and penchant for leadership. And, after a brief dedication ceremony a few years ago, FAIA named it’s building after Tom Johnson, the man who commissioned its construction in 1971.
But, of all his efforts on behalf of independent agents, Johnson would be more proud of his military service to his country. After becoming the highest ranking ROTC cadet in Florida he joined the army only to retire at the age of 28 to attend the University of Florida on the GI bill. He recently returned from France where he was recognized during the WW II reunion for his service in the US Army as a 26 year old Major fighting on the beaches of Normandy during the D-Day invasion.
Visitation will be on Tue., April 12, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., followed by a service on Wed., April 13, at 11 a.m. Both events will take place at Culley’s Meadowwood Chapel on 700 Timberlane Road in Tallahassee.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Tallahassee Bible Church, P.O. Box 3881, Tallahassee, Fla. 32315.
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