The history of Aiken & Company began in 1914 when Jefferson Boone Aiken Sr. (1889-1978) came to Florence as the general agent in the Pee Dee region of the old Southeastern Life Insurance Company. He was married to Pearl Ellis (1889-1968), a Florence native and daughter of Osborn S. Ellis (1856-1917), a pioneer citizen. His first business partner was J. C. “Joe” Long, and the business went by the name Aiken & Long. In 1924 Aiken sold the life insurance business to Long and kept the fire, casualty, and bond business, taking the name Aiken & Company. The company has been doing business under that name since then.
Jefferson Boone Aiken Sr., founder of Aiken & Company
Over the years, Aiken’s involvement in the community was deep and varied. He organized the Florence Rotary Club and was its first president in 1921. He served as a district governor of Rotary in 1932, when the district was the entire state of South Carolina and half of North Carolina. In 1933 Dr. Frank H. McLeod asked Aiken to be one of the original trustees, with life tenure, of the newly completed McLeod Infirmary on Cheves Street.
The Federal Housing Administration was created in 1934. However, it did little business until the government created a secondary market for FHA home mortgages in 1938 by establishing the Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA). This enabled FHA-approved mortgage companies to sell their mortgages to FNMA, retain servicing, and repeat the process, thus continuously building the servicing volume. Aiken saw the opportunity this presented and immediately organized the Aiken Loan & Security Company to originate and service mortgages.
By 1939 two of Boone Aiken’s sons, Osborn S. (1911-97) and Jefferson B. Jr. (1918-98) and a son-in-law, David H. McLeod (1915-86), were working in the combined Aiken & Company/Aiken Loan & Security Company. During World War II, the business marked time. O.S. and J.B. Jr. served in the Navy, and a younger son, John D. “Jack” Aiken, withdrew from the Citadel in 1943 and served in the Air Force. By 1946 the two older sons had rejoined the family business, and later Jack became linked with it on a special assignment basis.
Jefferson B. Aiken, Jr.
The year 1950 was a major milestone in Boone Aiken’s career. That year he and his closest associate, John G. “Doc” Hyman (1894-1965), bought a major interest in the Guaranty Bank & Trust Company, a local bank that had been organized in 1936. This did two things. It gave Aiken something to which he could devote his creative business acumen, and it made room at Aiken & Company/Aiken Loan & Security Company for his sons and son-in-law to apply more of their time and effort to the business and to community service.
Boone’s imprimatur on the Guaranty Bank was to project it as the Home Town Bank. His messages to the public were expressed in these themes: “Dollar profit is not first at the Home Town Bank,” and “We strive to run the kind of bank you want to do business with regardless of the FDIC insurance…(which, incidentally, we do provide).”
During this new period, David McLeod served as mayor of Florence for 16 years, from 1954 to 1970. His administration was highlighted by Florence’s being named an “All-America City,” and by attracting to Florence its first national industry, the DuPont Company. During this same period of time, O.S. Aiken served on the Florence District I School Board from 1952 to 1972. He served as chairman for the last 16 of those years and helped to recruit as superintendent, Henry Sneed.
J.B. Jr. worked mainly at the mortgage company and expanded its growth with branch offices in Columbia, Greenville, and Charleston in South Carolina; Raeford, North Carolina; and Thomson, Georgia. He also set up Construction Advance Corporation to lend construction money to builders to create permanent loans for the mortgage servicing company. The financing was done with banks other than the Guaranty.
In other community service, David McLeod became a life trustee of McLeod Hospital. J.B. Jr. was elected a director of the Florence Morning News following the death of Mr. John M. O’Dowd in 1970, and as a trustee of McLeod Hospital following the death of his father in 1978.
Yesterday, Aiken & Company was essentially a family business. Today, it is a business family employing a team of highly trained, seasoned, and dedicated professionals. Its primary mission is insurance. It conducts a comprehensive operation in fire, casualty, bonds, life, healthy, and all types of insurance. Throughout its history it has given support and vitality to the independent insurance agency system and has a roster of strong, impressive companies with which to place its customers’ insurance needs. Aiken & Company also serves the public in real estate sales and property management.
Today Aiken & Company is led by President & CEO, Lynn R.Owens. Lynn has been with Aiken & Company since 1970. Lynn is a lifelong resident of Florence and a graduate of the University of South Carolina. He is a Certified Insurance Counselor (CIC) and a graduate of The Aetna Casualty and Surety School of Insurance, Hartford, CT. In addition to insurance advising and risk management, Lynn has his Real Estate broker's license and currently serves as Broker In Charge for Aiken & Company, Inc.
Lynn R. Owens
Aiken & Company's operation is highly computerized, and officers and customer service representatives have computer terminals allowing instant communication with its insurance companies and immediate access to every customer’s account. The state-of-the-art computer system, updated in September of 2007, gives Aiken & Company the ability to do in-house rating as well as develop individualized proposals.
Jim M. Harsh
Aiken & Company’s growth in recent years has been augmented by the acquisition of several other local independent agencies. In 1972 Aiken & Company purchased the Stevenson-Hyman Insurance Agency, which had been in business since 1908. In 1980 it purchased the Wallace H. Berger Agency, and in 1995 Aiken & Company acquired the Delta Insurance Agency.
Officer responsibility for the company is a follows:
• Lynn R. Owens, president & chief executive officer
• James (Jim) M. Harsh, executive vice present
• Richard (Dickie) H. Reynolds, vice president, Life & Health Insurance
• Richard Owens, Jr., vice president
• Dianne S. Street, assistant secretary
|Pictured (from left to right): Leonard Cash, Jim Harsh, Richard Owens, Lynn Owens, Richard Genoble, Robbie Timms, & Brandon Stepp||Pictured (from left to right): Shelby Caulder, Reba Owens, Carol Barlet, Marilyn Poland, Dina Jordan, Dianne Street, Kathy Watts, Jesseca Horton, Janice Sharp, Lucille Parrott, Susan Welch|
This brief recital of some of the history of Aiken & Company leaves unmentioned the contributions of many wonderful men and women who were a part of building and expanding the company. They are remembered with love, affection, and appreciation.