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Features - Posted September 27, 2009 6 a.m.
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John Jr., Peter and William Boyce (photo by Kevin Briles)

Insuring Amarillo for a century

When John Boyce, Jr., resigned his commission with the U.S. Army in June 1949, his father, John, Sr., asked him about joining the family business.

“I graduated from West Point and was in Berlin about three years,” John, Jr., says on the second floor of their 6th Avenue office building. “Dad asked me when I got back if I’d like to work with him and I told him I needed to go back to school. I went back to Pennsylvania to attend the Wharton School of Finance.”

John, Jr., had already spent a few summers working for his father, but after graduating from Wharton in 1951, he returned to Amarillo to begin full time.

The Williams-Boyce Agency, LLP, was originally started by George Williams in 1904 and was located on Taylor Street where Plaza Two now stands. In addition to insurance, George also managed a travel business since it often took doing several things to make a living in a small budding frontier town. John Boyce, Sr., joined the company in 1919, and by 1925, he became a managing partner.

“My father was in France during World War I, in the Texas National Guard, and after he’d been home for probably two weeks, George called him to see about working with him,” says John, Jr.

Jim, his younger brother, also worked for the company. After graduating in 1955 from the University of Texas in Austin, Jim spent time as a carrier pilot for the Navy before joining the firm in 1962. He retired from Williams-Boyce six years ago.

The tradition of the father-son workplace continued when two of John, Jr.’s four sons, Peter and William, joined the firm after graduate school.

“When I went to college, it wasn’t necessarily on my mind too much, but nothing of great note was at the time,” laughs older brother Peter. “By the time I graduated from UT in 1980, I went to grad school with the intent of going into the business.”

Upon completing his MBA at the University of North Texas in 1982, Peter worked for American General for a couple of years, bummed around Australia for six months, and returned to Amarillo to work alongside his father in 1985.

Younger brother William also graduated from the University of Texas but completed his master’s degree at Louisiana State University. He spent the summer of 1989 living in New York City working for Chase Manhattan Bank, graduated in 1990, and moved to Houston where he worked for a wholesale division of Johnson & Higgins. By 1994, William was back in Amarillo at Williams-Boyce.

“It’s good to make contacts outside your own family,” he says. “You need to learn things from other people.”

“It’s best if you don’t start out working for your dad,” adds John, Jr. “They need to work for someone else.”

The company moved into the office building on 6th in 1925, and by 1985, they remodeled the inside but maintain the integrity of the historic facade.

“It would’ve been cheaper to tear the whole thing down and rebuild it,” laughs John, Jr. “But we wanted to do it that way to keep the original look. We just took it down to the dirt and put in a steel frame. We wanted to keep it the way it was as much as possible.”

One of the reasons the agency has lasted so long, aside from the joint-hard work and dedication from the Boyce family, is because Williams-Boyce customers have remained so loyal.

“We take care of our people properly and conduct business with ethics,” says John, Jr.

“In a sales organization like this, you’re not competing with each other,” adds Peter. “In some family organizations, only one person can be in charge. That’s not the case here. We’re not fighting one another.”

Aside from fierce family ties, the Boyce’s are equally dedicated to this city.

“The greatest benefit is that we care about this community,” says William. “We live here, we’re from here, and all of our profit goes right back into Amarillo.”

For more information about Williams-Boyce Agency, click here.

by Jennie Treadway-Miller

Jennie was a columnist for the Chattanooga Times Free Press for eight years prior to moving to Amarillo in 2008. She is an avid reader, runner and writer.
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