What started out 75 years ago as a 32-member group has grown to nearly 30,000 strong today. 1927: It was the year that Charles Lindbergh made the first nonstop transatlantic flight in The Spirit of St. Louis. The year of the first transatlantic telephone call. And the year that “Babe” Ruth became the first professional baseball player to hit 60 home runs in a single season. On October 13 of that year, the first Million Dollar Round Table meeting was held at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis.
As reported by National Underwriter, one member rose and spoke following this historic first meeting saying, “he had never expected so much and gotten so little from any meeting, and he regarded the two hours time spent as time absolutely wasted.”
Reports from that first meeting conveyed the opinions of some in attendance that these successful producers “talk a great deal, but reveal nothing of practical value to those that hear them.”
This may have been the opinion held by some attendees, but over time the meeting agenda evolved–adding the first nonmember to the speaking program in 1929.
The 32-member organization quickly grew–adding the first woman qualifier in 1928, as well as accepting qualifiers from abroad. MDRT almost immediately became an international organization, with representation from Canada, Australia, England, Japan and South Africa, among others.
Throughout the difficult economic times of the 1930s, MDRT continued to grow–and as more members qualified, the need grew to more formalize the operations of the organization. A formal application was developed and the first official bylaws were adopted in 1938.
At this time, the average age of a member was 45, with 15 years of experience in the business. The average amount of insurance written was $1.5 million annually.
When 1941 saw the entry of the United States into World War II, MDRT decided to cancel the meeting in 1942 and again in 1945. Throughout the course of the war, 24 members of MDRT served their country. The organization effectively “froze” its memberships while they served.
At the end of the war, changes in the tax code brought about the unlimited marital deduction, which quickly became an important estate-planning tool for MDRT members.
In 1959, the Million Dollar Round Table Foundation was formed. It would eventually lend its support to more than 1,400 charitable organizations, with gifts totaling over $10 million.
Then, in 1961, following a presentation by Dr. Mortimer J. Adler at the annual meeting, the Whole Person concept was introduced. This concept, which remains a touchstone among MDRT members, focuses on maintaining a balance in all aspects of an agents life–family, health, education, career, service, financial and spiritual. Many agents today recognize this concept as something that has dramatically changed their lives.
The 1960s carried a focus of education, with MDRT donating several scholarships to numerous colleges and universities. And at the end of the decade in 1969, the MDRT Foundation committed $1.5 million to finance the building of Foundation Hall at the American College in Bryn Mawr, Pa.