When Philip Martin was 37, he couldn’t have imagined the significance of the Alfa Life Insurance policy he bought Dec. 2, 1971.
Now 80, Martin jokingly says he’s in no hurry to collect on the policy, but the retired Coffee County dairyman said that decision made years ago is among many influenced by Alfa.
Alfa previously sold life insurance policies for other companies, but its first executive vice president Ed Lowder hatched the idea of the company selling its own life policies in 1971. The new idea was met with some skepticism.
“Mr. Lowder knew our agents were key to making our new life insurance product a success,” Martin said. “I remember my local agent, (the late) Ed Donaldson, told Mr. Lowder if he’d let him sell the first new life policy, he would support the plan. Mr. Donaldson sold that $25,000-policy to me.”
The life policy owned by Martin, Number L 001, is among almost 263,000 policies issued by Alfa Life Co. , totaling nearly $27 billion in force.
“I got involved in the Alabama Farmers Federation right after I returned home from college,” said Martin, who lives a quarter mile from his childhood home south of Enterprise. “It wasn’t long before folks on the county board of directors asked me to join. I was vice president for two years, then president. I knew it was an organization with a strong group of dairymen who were politically active. They could get things done, not to mention the organization represented all the other farmers, too. This organization helped give me and all the farmers a voice.”
Martin’s leadership skills soon gained him recognition outside the county. In addition to serving as Coffee County president from 1967 to 1998, he served two terms as a state board member for the Alabama Farm Bureau, which eventually became the Alabama Farmers Federation. His first term was 1969-1971. He served additional terms from 1998-2003.
The purchase of that first life insurance policy is special to Martin because it represents hundreds of fond memories and experiences he’s had with Alfa and the Alabama Farmers Federation.
“We’ve met so many wonderful people from all over the state who are our good friends because we met them through Alfa,” Martin said, smiling and squeezing the hand of his wife, Charlene. “Outside of my church and my family, being involved with this organization has had more impact on my life than anything else.”
Now retired, Martin was a dairyman for nearly 50 years, milking cows by hand and later with machines. His nephew has rented the farm since 2003, switching from dairy to beef cattle in 2012.
The Martins still live on the farm with their son, Edwin. Their daughter, Anne Marie Bliss, and her husband live in Texas with the Martin’s four grandchildren.
A retired schoolteacher, Charlene Martin said she and her husband are enjoying more time to travel and visit their grandchildren, but they still enjoy the farm and their relationships with Alfa and the Federation.
Alfa and Federation President Jimmy Parnell said Martin continues to lead and inspire others.
“He is a wise man, and his knowledge of the history of this organization is unbelievable,” Parnell said. “Our organization and this company became what they are today because people like Philip Martin were willing to serve and lead. All of us owe him and our former leaders a great debt. Just like when he bought that first life insurance policy, he believed in Alfa. He still does.