Agent McSween Recalls King, The Olympics And His Career
When a prominent museum honored Cirilo McSween with a visual retrospective of his life earlier this year, there were actually enough memories to fill several lives.
The focus of the exhibit at the DuSable Museum of African American History, which runs through Oct. 17, is “McSween Meets King: A Civil Rights Story.”
But as McSween told National Underwriter, a retrospective of his life also could have focused on his career as an Olympic athlete or his time as a life insurance representative who, starting in the late 1950s, brought in over $1 million in new business for a run of 20 years.
McSween says he started his career as a sales representative affiliated with New York Life Insurance Company in 1956 after graduating from the University of Illinois with a concentration in finance.
McSween had attended college after participating in the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, as part of the Panamanian Olympic team. His events were the 400-meter race and 1-mile relay, he recalls.
He says his decision to become a life insurance broker was influenced by his professor, Robert Mehr, author of the textbook, “Life Insurance: Theory and Practice.”
Mehr, he says, offered advice that contributed to his success as a top producer: “make a client paramount.”
That advice became a “mission,” he says, and allowed him to succeed in an environment in which “no one was hiring black people.”
In Chicago, where he had settled, McSween says he started from scratch, handing out booklets explaining the value of insurance to African Americans. Starting with small policies, he gradually began to cover bigger cases including physicians and more complicated estate plans.
McSween says he still has faith in simple whole life insurance. “Whole life is suited for most circumstances.”