For six years insurance circles have gossiped about the selling exploits of James Roosevelt: how, after his father's nomination in 1932, the fortunes of his lanky eldest flowered like the lilies in paradise. This week a number of those anecdotes are told publicly in a story, "Jimmy's Got It" by Alva Johnston appearing in the anti-Roosevelt Saturday Evening Post.
Author Johnston says insurance men estimate Son James's income from his Boston insurance firm (Roosevelt & Sargent Inc.) between $250,000 and $2,000,000 per year, says he built it to that by "twisting" accounts away from other agents by political leverage. Items:
¶ President George Washington Hill of American Tobacco Co. was Jimmy's first big prize. A Manhattan insurance man. Theodore Martin Riehle, had arranged for the company to take out a $10,000,000 policy on Mr. Hill's life. Hearing of this. Jimmy Roosevelt called up Warm Springs, Ga. when Mr. Hill was visiting there. "Tell father to be nice to Mr. Hill," he told a secretary. "I want to get his insurance." He did, about $2,000,000 worth.
¶ The Baltimore firm of W. T. Shackelford & Co. lost National Distillerspolicies between $70,000,000 and $80,000,000. Through Joseph P. Kennedy came policies insuring Scotch whiskeys in overseas transit. "Jimmy became, by a wide margin, the biggest whiskey-insurance man in America."
¶ Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc., Consolidated Oil Corp., Armour & Co., West Indies Sugar Corp., Hayden, Stone & Co., North American Co.were added to the long and varied list. "He got the Transcontinental & Western Air, Inc. business away from one of the old-established air insurance firms and split it with Fred Roper. Fred is the son of Daniel C. Roper, Secretary of Commercein charge of the regulation of aeronautics."
¶ "Jimmy is a specialist in everythinglife, fire, marine, air and group insurance. . . . The insurance fraternity is as startled . . . as the medical fraternity would be if a youngster who had never attended a medical school suddenly turned out to be America's greatest specialist in the eye, ear, nose and throat, in abdominal and pulmonary surgery, in obstetrics, pediatrics and chiropody."
¶ One of his few failures was to get the American Telephone & Telegraph Co. business. On this attempt, strangely, he was accompanied by his father's bitter political critic, Congressman Hamilton Fish, a director of one of the insurance companies represented by Jimmy. Loud Mr. Fish did the talking and President Walter S. Gifford of A. T. & T. was not helpful.
Author Johnston does not charge that any political quid pro quo was promised to Jimmy's clients. But "some corporations which have given Jimmy insurance have been lucky; some corporations which have denied him insurance have been unlucky."
Last week Son James returned to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn, for treatment of his stomach ulcers, a possible operation.