Cecil W. Powell & Company: Family-owned business for 87 years | Jax Daily Record | Jacksonville daily record


Cecil W. Powell founded his company in Jacksonville in 1935 because he believed the city presented the best opportunity to start and grow an insurance agency.

“My grandfather found out he had sold all the insurance he could sell in Fitzgerald, Georgia. He decided to move to a bigger city, so he came to Jacksonville,” said Fitzhugh Powell Jr., 69-year-old president of Cecil W. Powell & Company and third-generation head of the agency.

“He had eight people in the agency, which was a lot for the time. The first account was Miller Electric and we still have that account,” Powell said.

In the 1960s, the founder passed the reins to his son, Fitzhugh Powell Sr., who resigned as president in the early 1980s to hand leadership to his son.

Cecil W. Powell & Company President Fitzhugh Powell Jr. with portraits of his grandfather Cecil Powell and father Fitzhugh Powell Sr. on display in the insurance agency’s offices.

Powell Jr. decided to maintain and grow the family business while looking to scale.

“I looked at all the other agencies and realized that I don’t want to be either the big one or the small one. I wanted to be a boutique — and that was before it was called that,” Powell said.

The agency now employs nearly 50 insurance professionals and support staff, and continues its 87-year tradition of representing insurance providers to businesses looking to protect their assets, including vehicles and property, as well as executive liability and workers’ compensation.

The agency specializes in covering construction companies and non-profit organizations.

“We’re lucky that we’ve found some niches that we love,” Powell said.

The focus has helped the agency meet the challenges its clients have faced over the decades, including the current coronavirus pandemic.

“We’ve been pretty recession proof even in the COVID era because we do business with a lot of heavy construction companies. These guys dig in the dirt and build,” Powell said.

The agency’s office is located at 219 N. Newnan St. Downtown in one of Jacksonville’s most architecturally distinctive buildings.

The former headquarters of Shriners International’s Morocco Temple features two sculptures at the entrance modeled after the Great Sphinx of Giza in Egypt, the corporate symbol chosen by Cecil Powell when he founded the agency.

The Cecil W. Powell & Company offices at 219 N. Newnan St. Downtown are the former headquarters of the Shriners International Morocco Temple.

Designed by Henry John Klutho and built in 1910, the building was vacated when the Moroccan Shrine Center moved to St. Johns Bluff Road.

“My father loves this building. The trademark is integrated into it – the sphinx is a symbol of knowledge and wisdom. He said if he could get the building it would make it all real,” Powell said.

Purchased by Powell Sr. in 1984 for $610,000; its current taxable value is $1.75 million, according to records from the Duval County Property Appraiser.

The structure is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The insurance agency is located on the ground floor, an engineering and construction company has offices on the second floor and there is rental space in the building.

Cecil W. Powell & Company will make its own history in March with the opening of the agency’s first office in Valdosta, Georgia.

Designed by Henry John Klutho and built in 1910, the building is on the National Register of

It will be staffed with a few agents and customer service representatives who will work with clients in Jacksonville and set up business in South Georgia, Powell said.

Aside from that small expansion, Powell said the company’s strategy for 2022 is to continue doing what works for the company and its customers.

“We all survived. All of the other local agencies have been sold to bigger companies, but we’ll keep it in the family,” Powell said.

The fourth generation is being prepared to lead the company into its second century.

Powell’s nephew, Ben Powell, a surety specialist, is senior vice president. Powell’s stepson, Billy Toth, also works at the agency.

“We’re not going anywhere. We’ll be here for a long time,” Powell said.

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