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In memoriam: Industry icon John Eubank

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By David Thompson, CPCU, AAI, API, CRIS 

JohnEubankA few days ago, the insurance industry lost an icon when John Eubank, CPCU, ARM passed away. Space does not permit a description of John’s 50-plus career in the insurance industry; you can read John’s biography here. I learned years ago that no one is irreplaceable, but the ability to fill the shoes that John left behind is nearly impossible. 

I first met John through the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America’s Virtual University (VU). The VU has an “Ask An Expert” service where agents around the country can pose questions and the VU director (formerly Bill Wilson, now fellow “Insurance Nerd” and industry veteran Chris Boggs) sends those questions to a cadre of about 50 Insurance Nerd volunteers. Answers are collected and sent to the person who asked the question. I have served as a VU volunteer since the day it was founded, as did John and several other agents around the country. Most VU volunteers would echo my thoughts of, “I have gained 50 times what I gave to the VU.” 

I quickly picked up that John “had it all together.” He was well versed in almost every type of insurance, even when he would say, “I don’t know much about personal lines.” John’s true expertise was in CGL, commercial property, business auto, and especially crime coverage. John could spout off form numbers and edition dates like I spout off good BBQ restaurants. I often said, “John Eubank has forgotten more about insurance that I’ll ever hope to know.” We swapped thousands of emails and scores of phone calls over the last 10–15 years. John could give you the history of almost every ISO form back to the day when ISO was formed. 

Many of our FAIA members had the pleasure of attending sessions John did at our annual convention or at in-house training that John did for FAIA. Many other members benefited from John’s knowledge after emailing me, because I’d copy John for assistance. John had a loyal following among FAIA members. 

John Eubank was like the sportscaster John Madden; neither of them would fly. John drove the biggest Lincoln he could buy all over the country. When I asked John why he didn’t fly he said, “The last time I flew the pilot landed long and we wound up in the parking lot of a gas station.” I must admit, John had a valid reason not to fly! 

John was one of the five members of what we refer to as “The G5.” That is short for “Group of 5 Insurance Nerds.” That elite (and somewhat strange) group of five includes John Eubank, Bill Wilson, Mike Edwards, Jay Williams, and me. Combined, we have 213 years of experience in the insurance industry and 21 professional designations. I am the “rookie” of the group with only 31 years of experience. 

The G5 would swap scores of emails each day, picking the brains of each other. We once debated the proximate cause doctrine for over a week with emails numbering well into the hundreds. No one was shy about telling another G5 member, “You have your head up somewhere that it should not be.” We challenged each other on coverage positions we took on an issue and had no problem saying, “You make a great argument, and you are still wrong.” We would often say to each other, “I’d agree with you, but then we’d both be wrong.” At times we agreed to disagree. I challenged John a lot, and almost every time it ended by my saying, “Yep, you are right; I don’t know where I came up with that crazy position.” We always said, “If the G5 agrees, you can take it to the bank.” 

Many claims that were initially denied by an insurer got paid after the agent sent comments of the G5 to the adjuster who changed his or her denial. Many FAIA members experienced the wrath…I mean knowledge…of the G5 when I’d copy the G5 on an email and each would reply to the writer. Several agents wrote back saying, “You guys are weird…I mean amazing.” One time a New York attorney I know (specializes in insurance defense work) took a position on a coverage issue that I disagreed with and I copied the G5. A day or so later the attorney replied to the G5, “I give…I give…you guys win.” We bombarded him with dozens of emails in a matter of hours. He learned, the hard way, not to mess with the G5! 

John’s family owned a condo in Destin. Once when John and his wife Barbara were there, Bill Wilson and I joined them for a weekend. John had made a sign for the outside door, “VU Southern Command.” It was classic. The condo was about 15 stories, and it had a stunning view of the Gulf of Mexico. The bedroom I used had windows on two sides and I had an amazing view. Other than at night when I got into bed, I don’t think I saw the Gulf. For two full days John, Bill, and I sat at the dining room table with our laptops emailing each other stuff to look at. Non-stop we discussed nothing but insurance and ate BBQ that I had smoked; that’s an Insurance Nerd’s dream weekend! 

The weekend at Destin, John casually said to me, “Next time you teach a commercial property class, ask anyone there to explain the margin clause to you.” I said, “I will, and I bet no one can do it.” Under my breath I said to myself, “What in the heck is the margin clause?” It was something that I had never run across, even though ISO introduced it around 2007. The next day when I got back home (so John wouldn’t know it!), I started my research on the margin clause to learn all the details. Since that time, I have talked about the issue in numerous classes. John had that effect on people; make them learn and be a better insurance professional. 

I learned of John’s death when Bill Wilson sent an email to the G5 with the subject line of simply, “We are now the G4.” The message was short; “John just passed away. I will send more details as I have them.” When I received that I went to my Outlook contact list where I have made a distribution list with the G5 email addresses. When I want to send to all the guys I simply type “G5” in the “to” box and all the email addresses populate. I removed John’s email address from the list; that was hard to do…it was so final. 

I can’t speak for Bill Wilson, Jay Williams, and Mike Edwards, but we are still the G5; I’ll never use the term G4. My distribution list still says G5. I’ll still talk about the G5. There is a huge void in the knowledge base of the G5, but we will maintain the cause that John was part of. That is to read the policies you sell, know the coverages, and never, ever, stop learning. 

Hundreds, probably thousands, of insurance professionals are better educated because of John. I fortunate that I can put my name on that list. John made you learn, but you realized that it was fun learning…especially from him. 

Read John's obituary in The Tennessean.


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