It is with great sadness that NMSDC announces the death of Mr.Charles Brooks Perry, 83, a business leader, insurance industry pioneer, and long-time civic and political activist, passed away after a year-long battle with cancer May 20. He was co-founder of Pinkney-Perry Insurance Agency, the largest and oldest minority-owned insurance company in Ohio.
In the late 1950s, Perry became one of the first African American men to represent Prudential Life Insurance Co., selling traditional life insurance products to the African American community.
“Up until that time, the majority of insurance products sold in the black community were debit policies, also known as burial policies,” said Richard Perry, president and CEO of Pinkney-Perry Insurance, in downtown Cleveland. “My father believed that life insurance was a critical part of a wealth-building strategy, as evidence in other communities.”
Charles Perry was determined to use his professionalism, and knowledge of insurance, to build a company that worked to combat discriminatory and other unfair business practices common in many major American cities during that era.
“Those unfair business practices were created by insurance companies, and he spoke up against them,” Richard Perry said. “He wanted to bring high-quality insurance products to the black community.”
Perry was an advocate for change, always willing to volunteer his time, knowledge, resources and professional experience to organizations that could further causes he believed in. For instance, his work with the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), headquartered in New York City, helped to develop professional standards and programs that promoted contract and business opportunities for minority and women-owned companies around the country.
By 1981, the agency not only catered to minority customers, but it also attracted large companies such as Ford, Standard Oil and General Motors.
Perry and Arnold Pinkney, who is now deceased, met in the late 50s while attempting to sell insurance to each other and soon afterward decided to go into business together, a partnership that lasted for more than a half century.
Perry worked behind the scenes with Pinkney who was a strategist and power broker in political campaigns, including those of Louis Stokes for Congress, Carl Stokes for Cleveland mayor and Richard Celeste for Ohio governor.
“Arnold was a political expert who knew insurance, while my father was an insurance expert who knew politics,” Richard Perry said. “That’s why their partnership was unique, successful and long-lasting.”
A great salesman, and a mentor to many, Perry believed that anyone he met was an insurance prospect. He often spoke to young entrepreneurs and business leaders about building sustainable businesses and providing best-in-class customer service.
Perry was an avid golfer, church leader, and a gospel singer. A husband, father and grandfather, Charles Perry left a legacy of excellence wherever he went.
“Charles Brooks Perry was a statesman, a businessman, a family man and above all a Christian man. He will be remembered and live in hearts, long after we have laid him to rest; that is how much he has meant to so many of us,” the Rev. Dr. Jawanza Karriem Colvin, pastor of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church.
Funeral services for Charles Perry will be at 11 a.m., May 31, at Olivet Institutional Baptist Church 8712 Quincy Ave. Viewing hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday; 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at EFBoyd & Son Funeral Home 2165 E. 89th. St.