Death Of A Salesman
On July 17, 2001, the life insurance industry lost one of its most beloved legends. Benjamin “Woody” Woodson passed away at a Houston, Texas, care center after an extensive period of confinement.
In a lifetime filled with accomplishment, Woody wore many hats: champion typist, secretary, association executive, author and insurance company CEO. But regardless of what hat he was wearing, Woody was first and foremost a salesman. He had the ability to sell his ideas and point of view with logic, humor and practicality.
I felt a special relationship to Woody for, prior to moving on to American General as its CEO, he held the position at the National Association of Life Underwriters that I occupied for 15 years. I always felt a great sense of pride in the fact that I was one of those who followed in Woodys footsteps.
It was while he was at NALU that he was a player in the creation of the Life Underwriter Training Council. He was, to the very end, one of only two founding life trustees of LUTC. For many years he kept an active interest in the affairs of LUTC and regularly attended one of its semi-annual board meetings.
I had the privilege, and indeed the pleasure, of participating with Woody on a number of industry programs. His contribution to the program was always laced with good humor and practical observations. Woody was a realist through and through and much in demand as a public speaker. His status in the insurance community was such that he was able to be unusually candid in his public statements, thus giving his audiences the benefit of truth rather than the pabulum often served by others.
For years, Woody authored the “Back Page” of Life Association News (LAN) as an advertisement for his company. After his retirement the company advertisement program took a new turn–but Woody persisted. He called me one day and stated that he missed writing the “Back Page” and asked if he could continue to write it as a feature of LAN. Needless to say, we were delighted to have his column back in the magazine. Woody continued writing the “Back Page” until his health began to fail.
In addition to his industry speeches, it was the “Back Page” that provided Woody with the most significant outlet for his sales ideas. He never lost his belief in, nor zeal for, the worth and essentiality of life insurance. His writings were a great testimony to his passion for our business. Woody may have had an interest in products other than life insurance, but they never rose to the same level of conviction and commitment in any of his writings.