A Legacy of Rich History
In West Point, Georgia, after the Civil War, resources were limited, material and equipment were scarce, prices were inordinately high and cash was in short supply. Local citizens and area business leaders, many returning from the war, joined forces to rebuild West Point and the Valley Communities. As commerce evolved, the need for banking and insurance grew apparent.
Eager to build a company that could underpin the redevelopment of their communities, two brothers, Ward Crockett (W.C.) Lanier and Lafayette Lanier, opened a small private banking and insurance agency in 1868 named W.C. and L. Lanier.
Over the next 20 years, Lafayette grew more deeply involved in West Point’s textile mills, and his primary business interests shifted from banking to a focus on producing and marketing cotton products. During this time, Ward Crockett became ill and moved away.
After another local bank opened and a state bank was being organized, Lafayette liquidated the banking side of the business and began searching for someone to assume responsibility of the insurance agency. Since Lafayette and Ward agreed it was important for the company to remain in the family, they convinced Philip Lanier, their nephew, to come aboard in 1896.
Throughout the next 30 years, Philip’s political popularity and preoccupation as mayor vied for his attention to the business and the agency began to encounter difficulties.
The Great Depression was a troubling time for the company as Ward Crockett, Lafayette, and Philip had all passed away. Fortunately, another nephew, J. Smith Lanier, a successful businessman in the booming telephone industry, assumed management of the family business.
Mr. J. Smith Lanier’s primary goal was to collect some of the huge backlog of past due insurance premiums left by Philip. As a result of his enthusiasm and the use of innovative systems, Mr. Lanier was able to move the company back onto solid footing. He eventually shifted his interests to the building of a dam across the Chattahoochee River to protect West Point from floods. In 1932, Lanier’s daughter, Edith, who had worked for the firm for three years, was appointed manager. Edith ran a strong, conservative business which continued to grow and thrive. She played a major role in the reorganization of the agency and preservation of the family enterprise. Additionally, she became the first woman to be elected to the Executive Committee of the Georgia Association of Insurance Agents. In 1936, she purchased the entire ownership interest of the company.
As Edith planned for her retirement in the early 70’s, her nephew, J. Smith Lanier, II, bought the agency, and thus began a new era for the company. Smith’s strong beliefs made it possible to continue a family business built on the principles of service — first to God, then to one’s fellow man.
In 1976, Smith’s nephew, Gaines Lanier, joined the agency, and in 1983, the business changed its name to J. Smith Lanier & Co. In 1986, Gaines was appointed President and COO. In 1999, Gaines became President and CEO, while Gary Ivey was named COO.
In 2005, Gaines Lanier was named Chairman and CEO, and Gary Ivey was named President and COO. J. Smith Lanier, II and Bill Parr, Jr. were elevated to the positions of Chairman and Vice-Chairman Emeritus of the Board of Directors.
Strength of Character
Looking to the future, the consolidation of suppliers prevalent in the 21st century world of risk management and employee benefits prompted J. Smith Lanier & Co. to diversify its services and product offerings as early as 1988.
J. Smith Lanier & Co. is positioned to be a highly professional resource for a multitude of risk, human resource, employee and financial service needs. At the bottom line of teamwork, technology and ethics is our basic credo:
“At J. Smith Lanier & Co., we do what we say we’ll do.”