ORAL HISTORY ARCHIVE   A-CD-GH-LM-RS-Z

Ernesta Procope
National Visionary


Born in Brooklyn, N.Y. in 1931

President and CEO, E.G. Bowman, Inc.








BIOGRAPHY
Ernesta Procope is the founder and CEO of E.G. Bowman, Inc., the largest minority-owned insurance brokerage company in the U.S. Her determination and business savvy grew her firm from a small storefront in Brooklyn to the first minority-owned company on Wall Street. She is also credited as being the driving force behind insurance reforms that provided coverage to low-income families.


Procope as a baby
Procope was the only daughter of four children born to Caribbean immigrants, Clarence and Elvira Lord Foster. In her early years, she was a promising young musician. She played a recital at Carnegie Hall at 12 and attended New York’s prestigious High School of Music and Art. However, she ultimately chose the path of entrepreneurism.

Encouraged by her first husband, real estate broker Albin Bowman, she attended the Pohs Institute for Insurance and Real Estate. Procope received her license in 1950 and began to master the insurance business. After her husband died in 1953, Procope established E.G. Bowman, specializing in home coverage and other lines. Her store-front office served churches and families in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn. In 1954, she married John Procope, former publisher of New York’s Amsterdam News.


Procope as a young lady
Concerned about “red-lining,” a practice that denied coverage to the poor, Procope became a driving force in insurance reform. She urged N.Y. Governor Nelson Rockefeller to help counteract the problem. The governor convened hearings on the matter and the New York State Fair Plan was enacted. This important legislation guaranteed homeowner insurance to low-income families and has been adopted by more than 30 states since then. She also contributed to the creation of the New York Property Insurance Underwriting Association in 1968.

In the 1970’s, E.G. Bowman began to solicit the business of large corporations. Some of these clients included PepsiCo Inc. and Avon Products. She later received business from Philip Morris, TimeWarner, Tiffany and General Motors, government agencies and nonprofits who remain clients today. By 1979, Procope moved her firm out of Brooklyn onto Wall Street to be close to the insurance marketplace, making it the first African American company with that prestigious address.

Procope faced many obstacles and frustrations while building her business in a competitive field dominated by white males. Yet she remained fiercely determined to be a success. She credits her fearlessness to growing up with three older brothers. “I think I got a lot of my strength from them, not only physically, but mentally,” she says.

Procope was inducted into the African American Business Hall of Fame and Museum in 2003. Among her many honors, she is also the recipient of the Dow Jones/Wall Street Journal Entrepreneurial Excellence award, Crain’s New York Business All-Star Award and the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Small Business Person of the Year Award. Procope has also served on numerous corporate boards including Chubb Corporation, Columbia Gas System, Inc. and as a trustee of Cornell University.

After 50 years in business, Procope remains at the helm of E.G. Bowman and is looking forward to future opportunities and creating a succession plan for her company. She and her husband and business partner, John, are working to develop and mentor in-house talent in the areas of sales, marketing and administration.

VIDEO CLIPS


EXTERNAL LINKS
Ernesta Procope's biography on Answers.com

URL (Click to bookmark): http://www.visionaryproject.org/procopeernesta


ORAL HISTORY ARCHIVE   A-CD-GH-LM-RS-Z