"All I want to do is change the world." - W. Clement Stone
Pictured at right is philanthropist and insurance tycoon William Clement Stone and his wife Jessee who founded the Clement and Jesse Stone Foundation in 1955. Clem Stone was born in Chicago on May 4, 1902. Except for a brief time selling insurance for his mother in Detroit when he was 16, Clem lived almost all of his 100 years in Illinois. He was only 3 when his father died and by age 6 he was selling newspapers to help his mother with family finances. He personified the values of the Horatio Alger stories that were so popular in his youth. He was in fact a member of the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans.
Clem was in his mid 20s when he founded Combined Insurance Company of America headquartered in Chicago. He was 28 in 1930 when he had more than 1,000 agents selling insurance for him in all regions of the US. Clem built his company to a value of $1 billion by 1979 when it merged with the Patrick G. Ryan Group and Aon Corporation in 1987.
Clem Stone gave generously to many charities and schools including mental health and Christian groups, the Interlochen Music Camp in Michigan and the University of Illinois. His last gift of $100,000 to the university was on May 4, 2002 to celebrate his 100th birthday. He also gave and raised tens of millions of dollars for Republican candidates in Illinois and nationally. One of his partners, the secretary of Combined Insurance, was Evanston attorney W. Russell Arrington who was Republican leader of the Illinois State Senate from 1965 until his retirement in 1973. Arrington in his own right was very wealthy as the Chairman of Elkay Manufacturing and the Alberto-Culver Company. Arrington was worth about $20 million in 1969.
In 1960, Clem Stone co-authored with Napoleon Hill a best-selling book called Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude. He was also publisher of Success Unlimited Magazine for many years.
Clem Stone was the founder of Religious Heritage of America, a national interfaith organization that worked to pass legislation to add the phrase "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954. Outside of Illinois, Stone often supported conservative candidates such as Sen. James L. Buckley (R-New York).
Stone was a colorful character who liked to have fun in his daily routine. In the 1980s, he was still wearing "spats" over his shoe tops in a fashion that came from early in the 20th Century. He also has a pencil thin mustache and usually wore a polka dot tie with his well tailored business suits.
Clem Stone died in Chicago on Sept. 3, 2002 at the age of 100.