A well-known staple in the insurance industry, Ernesta Procope, reportedly died in her Queens home at 98-years-old.
According to the New York Times, the Black female entrepreneur founded E.G. Bowman Co. in 1953, and began to help home and business owners in her local community. Over time, Procope was able to expand her business, and later worked with Pepsico, the New York City Housing Authority and other high-profile clients.
A native of New York, Procope was born Ernesta Gertrude Forster in Brooklyn on Feb. 9, 1923, but would later grow up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. After graduating high school and attending Brooklyn College for a year, the New York Times reported that she left the school, got married and managed insurance while working at her husband’s real estate business.
When major insurers were reluctant to underwrite policies in what they considered a marginal Brooklyn neighborhood, Ernesta Procope’s firm hired limousines to ferry insurance executives there from Manhattan. https://t.co/6HvBlthi8U
— NYT Obituaries (@NYTObits) December 13, 2021
She later enrolled at the Pohs Institute of Insurance, providing her with even more insight into the industry. Following the death of her first husband, Albin Bowman, in 1952, Procope reportedly went on to marry John L. Procope, an advertising professional who would later become a chairman at E.G. Bowman Co.
Procope’s insurance business became known as the “nation’s largest insurance agency owned by a Black woman,” the New York Times reported. The established entrepreneur also reportedly became a champion for people of color being able to acquire insurance, working to have New York set up a Fair Access to Insurance Requirements plan and discussing the banning of redlining with Nelson Rockefeller, a former governor of the state.
According to Britannica, redlining is described as the “illegal discriminatory practice in which a mortgage lender denies loans or an insurance provider restricts services to certain areas of a community, often because of the racial characteristics of the applicant’s neighborhood.” The word stems from the red markings that were used to denote Black neighborhoods on maps used by loan companies.
Procope was honored with the Woman of the Year award from then-First Lady Pat Nixon in 1972, according to the New York Times, and seven years later brought E.G. Bowman Co. to Wall Street. Undoubtedly, she leaves behind a legacy that’s nothing short of impactful and inspirational.
Our hearts and thoughts go out to Procope’s friends and family at this time.