Oral Histories

Interview of Ivan J. Houston

Chief executive officer and chair of Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company, one of the largest Black-owned insurance companies in the United States.
Black Leadership in Los Angeles: Ivan J. Houston
Black Leadership in Los Angeles
African American History
Biographical Note:
Chief executive officer and chair of Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company, one of the largest Black-owned insurance companies in the United States.
Hopkins, Ranford B.
Houston, Ivan J.
Persons Present:
Houston and Hopkins.
Place Conducted:
Houston's office at Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company in Los Angeles, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Ranford B. Hopkins, UCLA Oral History Program; B.A., M.A. Ph.D. candidate, Department of History, UC, Santa Barbara.Hopkins prepared for the interview by reviewing Houston's personal files, reports, and documents at Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company, and articles on Houston published in the Los Angeles Sentinel and the Los Angeles Times. In addition, Hopkins talked with individuals who have worked with Houston and consulted secondary sources on blacks in the insurance business.
Processing of Interview:
Jacqueline Wester, assistant editor, edited the interview. She checked the verbatim transcript of the interview against the original tape recordings, edited for punctuation, paragraphing, and spelling, and verified proper names. Words and phrases inserted by the editor have been bracketed.The edited transcript was sent to Houston in December 1987. He verified proper names but made few corrections or additions and returned the transcript in April 1988.Teresa Barnett, editor, prepared the table of contents. Richard Martinez, editorial assistant, prepared the biographical summary and interview history. Alex Cline, assistant editor, prepared the index.
6.8 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
Interviews in this series were made possible by support from the UCLA Center for African American Studies, Institute of American Cultures. This is the first of several Oral History Program series focusing on social, cultural, economic, and political aspects of African American citizens in the Los Angeles metropolitan area.
Houston's parents, Doris Young Houston and Norman O. Houston--Childhood--Attends John H. Francis Polytechnic High School--Religious background.
Houston's hobbies--Black students at Polytechnic High--Houston enters University of California, Berkeley--Bombing,of Pearl Harbor--Houston enlists in the army--Grades at Berkeley.
More on Houston's parents and family background--Founding of Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company--Liberty Savings and Loan Association--Expansion of Golden State Mutual--Norman O. Houston and George A. Beavers, Jr., assume leadership of Golden State Mutual--Golden State employees join the Life Office Management Association (LOMA).
Education of Golden State employees under Norman O. Houston--LOMA and the Life Insurance Management Research Association (LIMRA)--Beavers and Norman 0. Houston retire--Golden State business in the Hispanic community.
Houston enters the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP)--Experiences segregation--The all-black 92d Division--Houston is sent overseas--Officers in the 370th Infantry Regiment--Encounter with an integrated Brazilian company--Houston is promoted to corporal--The liberation of Italy--Houston serves as operations sergeant--Experiences in combat--Black troops become less effective as they lose officers.
Fighting alongside South Africans--Houston's division bombed by U.S. planes--Houston is wounded--Medals he received--Meeting troops of other nationalities and races.
Black support of the war--Houston returns home--The contribution of the 370th Infantry Regiment--Black soldiers'protests and refusals to fight--Houston returns to school and marries Philippa Jones--Involvement in sports and other activities at Berkeley--Segregation in student housing--Philippa's family background--The black community in Pasadena in the 1950s.
Houston participates in track at Berkeley--Absence of discrimination in admissions and coursework at Berkeley--Studies actuarial science at University of Manitoba--Converts to Catholicism--Meets with Cardinal James Francis McIntyre to discuss the problem of discrimination.
Discrimination against Jews in California--Sports in Houston's college days versus today--Houston becomes an assistant actuary at Golden State Mutual--Life expectancy of blacks in California--Black actuaries--Becomes vice president at Golden State Mutual--Agents'1957 strike--Recruitment of actuaries Vernon Arnaud and Larkin Teasley--Houston becomes president and chief executive officer of Golden State--George Beavers's and Edgar Johnson's positions in the company--Norman B. Houston's career--Ivan Houston's contributions to the company.
Golden State Mutual enters the group insurance market--Focus on insurance for lower-income families--The education-for-juveniles policy--Automating the company--Home collection of premiums--The Golden State Minority Foundation.
The effect of World War II on Golden State Mutual--Golden State offers mortgage loans--The Watts riots--Homicide and suicide rates in the black community--Spending black money in the black community--Golden State and the nonblack community--Racism in the 1980s--Problems facing the black community.
Decline of black-owned businesses in the 1960s--New directions for Golden State--Houston's children, Pamela Houston Chretien, Kathleen Houston Johnson, and Ivan A. Houston--His wife Philippa's activities--Organizations Houston belongs to--Question of whether Golden State will stay black-controlled--Golden State's support of political candidates--Houston's accomplishments and goals.
Leaving Golden State Mutual--Difficulties of recruiting good people for Golden State.