Family roots keep Lipscomb & Pitts on path

The Memphis Daily News/The Memphis News

Nov. 16, 2013

Lipscomb & Pitts was founded on Oct. 1, 1954, by Mathew Lipscomb Jr. and John Pitts, both veterans of World War II who had come home to become the top two sales leaders in the southeast for Liberty Mutual Insurance Co.

“I remember both of them working at night, working on the phones calling people, I’m talking about religiously every night for two hours a night,” Johnny Pitts, chief manager, said of his father and Lipscomb. “It was just a standard thing at our homes that both of them were very disciplined in their approach. They were committed to this business.”

Credibility in those days meant roots.

“You had to have your name on the building,” said Pitts – and the partners put down roots in 1956 by building their company’s home at 651 S. Cooper St., just north of Central Avenue. The building was more than they needed at the time, and the unused space was strategically rented to an accountant who would recommend clients to them, a claims adjusting firm to handle their claims, and an attorney. The insurance business grew to fill the building, which eventually had to be doubled in size.

Mat Lipscomb III and Johnny Pitts continue the legacy their fathers built when they opened Lipscomb & Pitts in 1954.

(Photo: Andrew J. Breig)

Lipscomb & Pitts began venturing into the world of commercial insurance in the early 1960s, with the hiring of the first salesman and fellow veteran Jack Gates. In 1979, Mat Lipscomb III went to work in the firm, followed two years later by Johnny Pitts, both hired to sell commercial insurance. Nothing was given to the sons. They worked in the business beginning as teenagers in the filing room, and, later, each worked for other insurance companies along the way.

“In ’89, they came to us and said, ‘We worked an arrangement where you guys are going to start managing the company,’” Pitts said. “Everything was real slow. From ’89 to ’92, we managed the company.”

The new partners agreed on a philosophical decision of how to improve the company, developing different and particular disciplines, such as divisions focused on commercial and personal lines, and developing an employee benefits division . . . (read more)