History of the Southern Loss Association (1957 – 1998)

Written by J.F. Hardman


During the 1950’s, many changes were taking place in the property insurance field. New policy forms were being introduced it seemed almost monthly, and old policy forms were being broadened. Also, casualty companies were beginning to write property coverages, and multi-peril policies were being developed.

All of these changes were making the adjustment of property claims much more difficult and complicated. At the suggestion of Messrs. V.H. Merritt, Executive General Adjuster, and T.L. Roundtree, General Adjuster, of the General Adjustment Bureau, several of their friends and fellow adjusters met with them to discuss the situation. What transpired will follow in the body of this history.

It should be noted that The Southern Loss Association (SLA) membership at the time of organization was restricted to only those persons in a position of management or with supervisory duties, and also restricted to only representatives of the Stock Companies or the Companies’ adjusting arms, such as the General Adjustment Bureau or Underwriters Adjustment. As you may recall, neither of these adjusting firms would accept any claims from a mutual company until several years later.

Shortly after SLA was formed, it was decided by the Executive Board that membership should be opened to representatives of the defense law firms being used by the companies in the defense of their claims, especially claims involving suspected arson.

Brainstorming Meeting

Prior to the first preliminary meeting recorded in the official minutes of the Association, Cook Cromwell, Soapy Merritt, S. F. Padgett and Hack Heyward met for lunch at the Frances Virginia Tea Room, second floor, on the corner across from Davison’s Department Store. At this meeting they discussed the problems facing the adjusting fraternity and decided to have another meeting to consider forming an association of managers and adjusters to address those problems.

A preliminary meeting was held March 25, 1957 at the Town House Restaurant, with the following persons in attendance:

C.C. “Cook” Cromwell who called the meeting, General Adjuster for Hartford Fire Insurance Co.

W.D. Swift, Staff Adjuster for Hartford Fire, who acted as secretary for the meeting.

S.F. Padgett, Secretary of American Fore Group

V.H. “Soapy” Merritt, Executive General Adjuster for G.A.B.

At this meeting, acting chairman Cook Cromwell expressed his desire to form an association of claim executives and heavy property claims adjusters to tackle the many problems facing the insurance industry as concerns the adjustment of property claims as a result of the proliferation of new forms and changes in coverages. At this meeting, the other persons present approved of the proposal and it was suggested that another meeting be held on April 3, 1957 to further discuss forming the Association. Invitations were extended to several additional parties to attend the meeting.

The next preliminary meeting was held April 3, 1957 at 10:00 a.m. in Room 711, Trust Company of Georgia Building. In addition to Messrs. Padgett, Cromwell, Merritt and Swift, General Adjuster T.L. Roundtree of G.A.B., H.G. “Hack” Heyward, III, Loss Supervisor, Royal Insurance Group, and Paul Patton, Loss Supervisor, North British and Mercantile Insurance Group, attended.

During this meeting several items of importance were discussed.

  1. What should the Association be called? The name Southeastern Loss Association was suggested, but rejected. The attendees felt it too restrictive because qualified applicants from states such as Texas, Kentucky and other areas might want to join. It was voted to call the new association The Southern Loss Association.
  2. How should the Association be organized? In the years preceding this meeting, there had been an organization in the city called The Adjusters Round Table. It was decided that this was not a good group to pattern after because (1) it had no formal agenda for its meetings, and (2) it met at a restaurant at noon which left no time to discuss problems of any consequence. Because of the above reasons, the group dissolved a couple of years before Cook Cromwell called his first meeting.

It was decided that the Southern Loss Association should be roughly patterned after The Loss Executives Association. The new association would be:

  1. of a formal nature.
  2. That members would be notified of a carefully prepared agenda, including loss problems to be discussed, along with the necessary policy forms, in sufficient time that all members would have time to study the questions and be prepared to discuss them at the next meeting.
  3. Due to the members’ impatience to leave meetings to return to their offices, it was decided that the meetings should be held the first Thursday of each month, starting at 3:00 p.m. and ending about 5:00 p.m., after which members could have a social gathering and dinner. Of interest, this format for the meetings was followed from the time the Association was formed until June of 1966 when several changes took place. Those changes will be listed later in this history.

At the conclusion of the planning meeting, the recommendations and ideas of the planning meeting were mailed out to some 37 persons that the planning meeting group thought might be interested in joining the proposed Southern Loss Association. They were offered the chance to become charter members of the organization. A listing of the charter members of the Association is included as an addendum to this history.

Organizational Meeting

April 11, 1957 was held in Room 711, Trust Company of Georgia Building at 3:00 p.m. Twenty-two charter members attended this meeting. Unfortunately, no list of those attending was noted in the minutes. Cook Cromwell presided as temporary chairman and Pete Swift acted as secretary.

A discussion was held concerning the need for such an organization, its purpose and how its objectives could be accomplished. It was decided that the bylaws and constitution of the new organization would be taken almost verbatim from those of The Loss Executives Association, with the exception that the word “fire” would be removed from articles 2 and 3 of the constitution. In both places the word “fire” appeared in the phrase “Stock Fire Insurance Companies”. It was removed so as to not exclude stock casualty companies writing fire coverages.

A nominating committee was appointed at this meeting to develop a slate of officers to be presented at the next meeting.

The meeting of April 18, 1957 was held in Room 711 of Trust Company of Georgia Building at 3:00 p.m. with dinner after the meeting at The Capital City Club.

At this meeting, the first officers of The Southern Loss Association were elected. They were:

President C.C. Cromwell, The Hartford Insurance Company

Vice President Sam Padgett, American Fore Insurance Company

Treasurer H.G. “Hack” Heyward, Royal Globe Insurance Company

Secretary W.D. “Pete” Swift, The Hartford Insurance Company

Assistant Secretary V.H. “Soapy” Merritt, General Adjuster of G.A.B.

The Executive Committee consisted of:

Paul Patton, North British Group

Raymond Case, Home Insurance Company

H. Benson Ford, General Adjuster with Ford, Farmer & Burnett

C.O. Petty, Firemen’s Fund Group

A point of interest: Hack Heyward, in a letter to the author, gave an insight into the founding fathers of The Southern Loss Association. Hack said that he was very impressed with Cook Cromwell who reminded him of General Robert E. Lee without the beard; that he was a majestic character, unflappable, and possessed of a wisdom and solid knowledge that was unmatched. He was a gracious and pleasant companion, who nonetheless ran the meetings firmly with absolutely no horsing around or wasted time.

Cook Cromwell and many of the other founding fathers of the Association were persons of some years. Hack Heyward and W.D. “Pete” Swift were most likely the youngest of all the original members. I met most of the original members in 1959 and was also very impressed with their knowledge of the claim business. Anyone meeting them would be inspired to equal their abilities.

Hack went on to say that Sam Padgett was also a very impressive individual, being very competent and wise, but also very friendly and a relaxed personality. Hack said he was quite young for his position and responsibilities.

“Soapy” Merritt is described as being one of the original hilarious characters associated with the G.A.B. during the 30’s and 40’s, but an extremely able heavyweight General Adjuster. It is said that Soapy got his nickname because of what a slippery talker he was. Hack says that he was very close to Soapy because he was a contemporary of his father, both of them having started their careers with the old Southern Adjustment Bureau back in Norfolk, Virginia.

In reviewing the minutes of the early days of The Southern Loss Association, it is evident that this was a “working” organization. They tackled many difficult subjects, such as agents assigning catastrophe losses to unqualified independents; problems with new policy forms, arson, lightning, blasting claims and many other subjects. At almost all meetings they had loss problems for discussion.

The loss problems were sent out to each member, along with copies of the policy forms involved, well in advance of the next meeting and it was expected that each member come to the meeting prepared to discuss the problems in detail and furnish his researched answer. Woe to him who had not done his homework! Hack says they really heard it from the rest of the group.

It was a practice of the Underwriters Associations, back then, of promulgating new policy forms, or changing wording in existing policies without consulting the insurance people handling the claims to see how the changes might affect the adjustment of the claims. The underwriting association that handled this area was The Southeastern Underwriting Association. However, that was also true of the other underwriting associations in other areas of the country, not just here in the Southeast.

Because of the problems with the underwriters, The Southern Loss Association appointed a forms committee at the September 5, 1957 meeting to meet with the Southeastern Underwriting Association to discuss potential problems before changes were released. It appears that the Underwriters Association was pleased to have the input from the Southern Loss Association and henceforth the two groups worked together and potential problems were resolved before they occurred.

Several other committees were appointed to address the various problems facing the adjusting profession during that time. In reviewing the reports from the various committees, it is apparent that they were of great service to the industry as a whole in resolving some very complicated problems.

During the years from the inception of the Association until June 1966, the meetings always started at 3:00 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month and ran until 5:00 p.m. This allowed ample time to have many distinguished speakers at the meetings, but also gave them time to conduct any needed business and to discuss loss problems. The Executive Board met one hour before the regular meeting started to conduct their business.

After the business meetings were over, the members adjourned to meet in a social hour, after which they enjoyed a dinner together. This time after the regular meetings developed many friendships and closer working relationships between the members.

Changes Made

A change in the Bylaws and Constitution was made during the June 4, 1957 meeting, and approved by the membership at the September 3, 1957 meeting, to amend Section 1, Article 3 by inserting the words “Company Owned” before the word “adjusting”. They also added a sentence to that article which allowed representatives of independent adjustment firms to join the Association as long as such membership did not exceed 10% of the total membership. These changes were intended to preserve the Association as a Stock Company organization in keeping with the intent of the founders of the organization.

During the January 5, 1959 meeting, an amendment to the Bylaws and Constitution was made to provide that the immediate past president become a member of the Executive Board.

At the January 4, 1962 meeting, the fact that the Ansley Golf Club would no longer serve a Thursday night buffet required that each member now make reservations for the evening meal.

When the Association was first formed, the only fee for joining was an initiation fee of $10.00. No dues were collected. Provisions were made, however, for assessments, and it was found necessary to invoke assessments on February 7, 1963 and again on February 3, 1966.

During the June 2, 1966 meeting, it was voted to change the meeting time from 3:00 p.m. to noon and hold the meetings the third Thursday of each month, with the Executive Board meeting at 11:00 a.m. This change was necessitated by dwindling membership, low attendance at meetings and even lower attendance at the social hour and for dinner.

The above change had been suggested before during the September meeting 1962, but a survey of the membership at that time indicated that they preferred the later meeting time. It should be remembered that at that time in the history of The Southern Loss Association, most members were older men without children at home so they did not feel any necessity to hurry home to their families. As the mix of membership became younger, that changed; hence the pressure to change the meeting times.

Further Changes 1967

Because membership was so low and attendance dwindling at the meetings, even after changing the meeting time to noon, it was decided by the Executive Board, and approved by the membership, to make additional changes in an effort to boost membership and attendance. The recommended changes were radical for an organization that had been founded by Stock Insurance Companies with membership limited to only Stock Company representatives and members of the Company-owned adjusting arms, with a few independent adjusters and a couple of defense attorneys.

  1. Membership qualifications were broadened to accept members who worked for Mutual Companies.
  2. Associate memberships were granted to other disciplines felt necessary to the handling of property claims, such as engineers, accountants, salvage companies working strictly for the insurance companies, and others.
  3. Women who qualified by reason of management or supervisory positions were encouraged to join. While there had never been any restrictions on women joining the Association, none had joined and no effort had been made to encourage them to become members. Also, at this time in history, there were few women in those positions in the claim business.

The Association’s first lady member was Gwenda M. Brothers (now Gwen Brent) who was with Marsh & McLennan, Inc., and was assistant to the claim manager. She became a member in 1974 and later was elected The Southern Loss Association’s first Lady President in 1982. Gwen has been a faithful and important member of our Association for all these many years. Congratulations Gwen! She was granted Life Membership in 1998.

One other reason that The Southern Loss Association opened up its membership to representatives of the Mutual Companies is that the Stock Companies had changed their position on allowing their company-owned adjusting firms to handle Mutual Company claims. G.A.B. and Underwriting Adjustment Company were now handling Mutual Company losses and it would not be good relations to not admit Mutual Company representatives to membership.

The membership during the early years of the Southern Loss Association only numbered in the upper thirties to the low forties. Attendance at meetings ranged from a low of 11 to a high of 28. That is not surprising considering that the requirements for membership during that period would include many General Adjusters and Executive General Adjusters who spent many days out of town handling large losses. However, the low attendance was of great concern to the Executive Board and it was reflected in the minutes of their meetings.

Membership did increase after the membership requirements were changed in 1967 and soon over 100 members were listed on the membership rosters. Attendance at the monthly meetings also increased and as a result larger meeting places had to be found.

After our last meeting at the Dunfeys Motel in February of 1980, the meeting times were changed from the third Thursday of the month to the second Thursday in order to avoid conflicts with other adjuster’s organizations who also met on the third Thursday.

Dues and Initiation Fees

From the inception of the Southern Loss Association in 1957 until 1990, the initiation fee was $10.00, which included the yearly dues. As mentioned previously, the Association did have a provision in the bylaws (as we still have currently) that the members could be assessed an amount not to exceed $5.00 per assessment nor more than $5.00 per year (now $10.00 per year). The Executive Board of the Association found it necessary to invoke that provision on February 7, 1963 and again on February 3, 1966. I do not recall any other times that assessments were made against the membership.

The first change in the dues structure occurred in 1990. At that time, the Executive Board increased the initiation fee to $15.00 and yearly dues to $10.00 per year.

In 1991 the Board again increased the dues to $15.00 per year with the initiation fee remaining at $15.00. They also changed the assessment provision to allow up to $10.00 per year, but only $5.00 per assessment.

There was another increase in dues in 1995. The initiation fee remained at $15.00 but the dues increased to $20.00 per year.

The bylaws were changed again in 1997, but there was no increase in either the initiation fee or the yearly dues.

There have been several reasons why it became necessary to increase the yearly dues.

  1. Many times the cost to the Association for the luncheon meals is greater than what the Executive Board felt the members should have to pay for a lunch and the Association subsidized the cost. Currently several of our corporate members have been helping out by being sponsors for the lunches and helping make up the shortfall. We thank our sponsors for their concern and help.
  2. Over the years the Association has had to pay for “no shows.” Many of the places we met wanted a guaranteed count, and we were required to pay for the full amount of the meals even though one or even several persons did not show up and did not pay. This became quite a drain on the Association’s treasury. That is also the reason we are now billing for “no shows.” It is not something the Association wanted to do, but it was a necessity.
  3. While it does not happen often lately, with our present method of registration for lunch, we did, in the past, have persons eat lunch but neglect to pay for their meal. This, too, was an expense that the Association had to absorb.


During the early years of the Association many committees were appointed to address specific problems facing the Association and the property claims handling process. Many of our current committees are the same as those of the original organization but several are no longer active.

    1. Catastrophe Committee
      President Victor Berg appointed this committee at the February 1, 1962 meeting. Its stated purpose was to act in liaison with the National Board of Fire Underwriters.In 1963, the Insurance Commissioner’s office asked that a catastrophe committee be formed to work with his office. Its purpose was to be a liaison between the insurance industry and the Insurance Commissioner’s office who was the advocate for the insuring public.After a catastrophe occurred, the Insurance Commissioner would call a meeting of representatives of the general agents, major insurers, The Southern Loss Association, Atlanta Claims Association and other entities that might be involved in the handling of the losses resulting from the catastrophe. At this meeting discussion was had concerning possible problems concerning interpretations of coverage, exclusions, coinsurance, and deductibles in an effort to obtain a consensus as to the handling of the claims. The Commissioner would also ask that price guides be developed for the storm to be given to the handling adjusters.
    2. Legal Committee
      The responsibility of this committee was to keep advised of changes in laws, statutes and case law that would impact upon the adjustment of property claims. Their review covered all jurisdictions, not just Georgia, because many members also were active in other states, and in many instances case law in another jurisdiction would impact on cases in Georgia.
    3. Resolution and Fellowship Committee
      The purpose of this committee was to “extend some courtesy or remembrance to any member who was seriously ill or had suffered a bereavement.”This committee, or one similar to it, needs to be reestablished. We have had many members pass away in the past years and most members are not aware of those deaths. We should place a notice in our monthly newsletter of any known serious illnesses or death of our members, current or retired.
    4. Information and Publicity Committee
      The purpose of this committee was the selecting and obtaining copies of various talks, pamphlets, publications, etc. of common interest for distribution to the membership. During the Executive Board meeting held January 15, 1959 the duties of this committee were expanded: “It was agreed that the Information Committee would expand its activities to include publicity for The Southern Loss Association in the trade press and other channels of communication.”Other committees were appointed to address specific problems, then dissolved after the problems were resolved.
    5. Education Committee
      The Southern Loss Association has always had as its primary objective the education of its members. From its inception, it has strived to achieve this objective by having as part of its agenda the study of loss problems and to have speakers from many disciplines speak on various subjects concerning loss and adjustment problems.Over the years we have had sitting judges from Superior, State and Federal Courts address our Association; the Insurance Commissioner or his representative; representatives from The National Board of Fire Underwriters; State Fire Marshals from Georgia and surrounding states, including the Fire Marshall from Jefferson County, Alabama (Birmingham area); many, many attorneys, engineers, accountants and other knowledgeable people.

Current Educational Activities of The Southern Loss Association

The Southern Loss Association is maintaining its history of providing education to its membership. When the State of Georgia, and other states passed requirements that in order for an adjuster to maintain his adjuster’s license (both independent and staff adjusters), the Southern Loss Association stepped forward with a continuing education plan for adjusters.

The 6th annual educational seminar sponsored by the Southern Loss Association was held on August 27th, 1998. The Association applied to the licensing authorities for certification of the seminars and accreditation was received. While the credit hours received from attendance at the seminars does not fulfill all the hours required, it gives the adjusters a leg up on the required hours, and does so in a very friendly and relaxed atmosphere. The Association has received many accolades for the quality and content of its seminars.

The first annual educational seminar was held on August 12, 1993 during the presidency of William L. McElveen who first conceived the idea of an educational seminar for adjusters and others that needed continuing educational credits to maintain their licenses. Many thanks, Bill, for a great idea!

In addition to our speakers and loss questions at our monthly meetings, the Association also provides, in its monthly newsletter, articles written by very knowledgeable persons representing many different disciplines. These articles are very informative and provide an insight into many different problems facing the adjustment field today. We want to thank all of our speakers and those who have contributed articles for their time and effort.


Using the proceeds from selling advertising in our monthly newsletter, the Association has been able to reach out to others in need.

The Association is currently offering scholarships to young persons who want to attend college and make a career in the insurance field, but do not have the money to do so. We have already furnished several scholarships through The Insurance Education Department of Georgia State University and this is a continuing priority with the Association. With the death of a long time instructor of I.I.A. courses in 1996, the scholarship was named the “Bruce Huebling Scholarship”.

It has recently been agreed by the Southern Loss Association’s Executive Board to also provide an additional scholarship through the Insurance Education Department of the University of Georgia. The first scholarship was presented in 1998.

Some of the recipients of the scholarships are:

University of Georgia

  • Ms. Melissa Anne Hall, majoring in Risk Management and Insurance. Melissa interned at AIG.

Georgia State University

  • Aaron Pisgo, recipient of the 1997 scholarship.
  • Carl Ienter, who received the 1996 scholarship, and who is now working for the Royal Insurance Company in Charlotte.
  • Ms. Jane Sandlerhas, who received the 1995 scholarship, is now working for The Georgia Baptist Hospital in their Risk Management Department.

The Association has also felt the need of others and has made contributions to the following associations:

  • American Red Cross: for victims of the flooding in South Georgia, tornadoes in Hall County, Hurricane “Hugo”, Florida tornadoes and Hurricane “Fran”.
  • Yaarab Shrine Temple, Burn Center
  • Fire Department’s Clown Fire Safety Team
  • Feed The Hungry Foundation
  • Christian City Home for Children

We can be proud that we are members of the Southern Loss Association. Not only is it one of the largest (if not the largest) organization in the country devoted to the education of property adjusters, but also an organization that reaches out to others in need. Through the scholarships that it is providing to young and worthy students, it is insuring that future insurance people will also be well educated and able to carry on the traditions of the Southern Loss Association.