Mississippi Insurance Department History

The Mississippi Insurance Department was created as a separate department by an Act of the Mississippi Legislature, effective March 1, 1902. The Act provided for the election of an Insurance Commissioner at the general election of 1903 and provided that until the election and qualification of such Insurance Commissioner, the duties of the office should be discharged by the State Auditor of Public Accounts.

Honorable W. Q. Cole was the State Auditor at the time and was elected without opposition in the 1903 election as the first Insurance Commissioner. This was fitting since Mr. Cole was largely responsible for writing the law and for its passage. Until then Mississippi had few laws affecting insurance and such matters as came up in the nature of insurance were handled by the State Auditor. Mr. Cole had recognized the need for laws governing insurance and a separate department and he had worked toward obtaining them. At his own expense, he went to New York, South Carolina, Virginia, and other states and studied the Insurance Departments’ and their laws. He selected what he considered the best features of each. Mr. Cole administered the law as State Auditor from its passage in March 1902 until he opened the State Insurance Department in January 1904.

After the passage of the insurance law, more companies began to enter the State of Mississippi. The earliest biennial report of the Insurance Department on file in the office is for the period from October 1, 1903, to March 1, 1905. It reports 126 insurance companies licensed in Mississippi as of March 1, 1904, and 184 as of March 1, 1905. It reports that the total amount collected by the department and turned into the State Treasury for that period was $217,844.57.

There have been many additions to the insurance laws since those of 1902. Each Legislature has passed some laws enlarging the scope of the Commissioner’s authority and consequently, increasing his duties and responsibilities. The Countersignature or Resident Agents’ Law requiring policies of every kind, except life insurance, to be countersigned by licensed resident agents was passed by the Legislature in 1916. The Act creating the Board known as the Insurance Commission and providing for the organization and operation of the Fire and Rating Bureau was passed by the Legislature in 1924. The Act creating the Insurance Commission Board was repealed in 1987 to take effect on January 1, 1988. The Legislature of 1928 brought the burial insurance business under the supervision of the Insurance Department. This started as a small business and has now grown until there are approximately 300 burial associations doing business in the State.

What could probably be considered the next major law affecting insurance was the Act passed in 1946 providing for the regulation of casualty rates and rating organizations which had long been advocated by former Commissioners. The Legislature of 1948 passed another law that the former Commissioners and the insurance agents had tried several times to get through the Legislature. This was the Fire and Casualty Agent’s Qualification Law. Subsequently, the Legislature of 1960 passed a law requiring written examinations to be given to agents writing life, health, and accident coverage.

The Commissioner of Insurance is elected to a four-year term and may be re-elected. The Commissioner is charged with the execution of all laws relative to insurance companies, corporations, associations, fraternal orders, their agents, and adjusters. The duties of the Insurance Commissioner are varied and are both administrative and regulatory. The Commissioner is also the State Fire Marshal and directs the investigation of all fires of a suspicious nature. Through the State Fire Marshal Division, the Commissioner administers the Mississippi Fire Prevention Code. The Commissioner, through the Fire Service Development Division, established guidelines, use, and accountability for municipal and county fire protection funds. The Commissioner administers the Liquefied Compressed Gas Equipment Law and enforces the National Fire Protection Association Code. The Commissioner of Insurance serves on numerous boards and Associations.

Those who have served as Commissioner of Insurance are:

W.Q. Cole 1903 – 1908

T. M. Henry 1908 – 1928

Ben S. Lowry 1928 – 1932

Geroge Riley 1932 – 1935

J. H. Johnson 1935 – 1936

John Sharp Williams, III 1936 – 1944

Jesse L. White 1944 – 1952

Walter Bell Davis 1952 – 1972

Evelyn Gandy 1972 – 1976

George Dale 1976 – 2008

Mike Chaney 2008 – Present