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Remembering longtime Protective CEO William James “Billy” Rushton III

October 5, 2021

A culture of caring and cultivating greatness is part of the impactful legacy longtime Protective CEO William James “Billy” Rushton III, who passed away Sept. 30, 2021, leaves behind. During his career at Protective, which includes 24 years as CEO, Rushton forged a lasting bond between Protective and the community. Under his strong leadership and guidance, the Company reached sales in all 50 states and was elevated from a regional insurance company to a national insurance leader.

Rushton’s achievements even stem prior to his career with Protective. He graduated magna cum laude in 1951 with a degree in mathematics from Princeton University before entering the military immediately after. A second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserves, Rushton was awarded a Bronze Star and was promoted to Captain for his work as an artillery observer during the Korean War.

Shortly after in 1953, Rushton got his start in the insurance industry as an actuarial trainee with Prudential Life Insurance Company before moving back to Birmingham to join the actuarial department of Protective, where he became a Fellow of The Society of Actuaries (FSA). In 1955, he served as a salesman on commission with Protective, making the Million Dollar Roundtable and leading the company in sales. He transitioned to the role of vice president of individual sales in 1962, where he rebuilt the company's sales department and oversaw notable growth. Ultimately, he succeeded his father’s 32-year role at Protective, becoming president in 1967, then in 1969, being named as one of the company’s seven CEOs in its 114-year history.

“Protective and Birmingham have lost an incredible leader, who was dedicated personally and professionally to making a meaningful difference in the lives of others,” said Rich Bielen, Protective President and CEO. “His legacy will continue to fuel Protective’s enthusiasm for being protectors of our people, our communities and our customers. Protective wouldn’t be what it is today without his leadership and service, and we should all strive to leave the world better than we found it, just as Billy did.”

Passionate about community engagement, Rushton was an active board member of Southern Company, Alabama Power, AmSouth Bank, Avondale Mills and Protective Life. He also served as chairman of the United Way campaign overseeing its largest increase in funding in recent history, the United Way Foundation, the Community Foundation, as the first chairman of Leadership Birmingham and the Alabama chapter of the Newcomen Society of North America. Additionally, Ruston held roles with the Board of Trustees for Birmingham Southern College Rhodes Scholarship Selection Committee, the Robert Meyer Foundation Advisory Committee, the Rotary Club of Birmingham, Children's Hospital of Alabama and the Mountain Brook Country Club. He was a member of First Presbyterian Church of Birmingham, the national Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and The Redstone Club. In 1979, he was inducted into the Alabama Academy of Honor.

Ruston’s memorial service will be held at noon on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021, at First Presbyterian Church, 2100 4th Avenue North in Birmingham, Alabama, with visitation beginning at 11:00 a.m. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that donations be made to the United Way of Central Alabama or to the Alabama Symphony Orchestra.

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