Museum holds open house on N.C. Mutual’s history

May. 28, 2013 @ 03:53 PM

Durham’s history museum opened its doors Sunday afternoon to let people share memories of N.C. Mutual Life Insurance Co. as it marks its 115-year anniversary.

One of those was 77-year-old Connia Watson, who worked for the Durham-based insurance company for more than 30 years, starting in 1958. He began as a sales agent at Mutual’s Asheville office and joined the home office in Durham in 1976, retiring as a vice president.
“I grew up in a N.C. Mutual family,” Watson said. His father had been a sales representative for the company in the 1930s.
“I have pleasant memories, and if I had to do it again, I would,” he said.
Watson called the company’s longevity and contributions to Durham impressive.
“The fact that you have an African-American business with national recognition that has been able to operate for 115 years is significant,” he said.
Sunday’s exhibits included old photos and other material from Duke University and N.C. Central University archivists that the company transferred to the schools in 2009.
Joel Smith, who worked at N.C. Mutual in Durham for 36 years, brought memorabilia that included 10-year, 20-year and 30-year service awards.
Smith, who retired in 2006, said it was interesting to watch the company grow over the years.
He said Mutual was one of the first companies to use computers in the 1960s. “The company  attracted the best and the brightest,” he said.
Retired N.C. Mutual executive Howard Clement, a Durham city councilman, wasn’t at the open house, but his old office phone was. It was one of hundreds of items in 30 boxes that Clement gave to the Durham County Library.
A reception to honor Clement for donating his papers to the library will be held from 5 to 6:30 p.m. June 4 in the downtown library’s first-floor auditorium.
Sunday’s open house was one of a series of events celebrating North Carolina Mutual’s 115th anniversary.
The yearlong recognition of the company’s history will culminate in a week of celebrations and special events in October.