The longtime spokesperson of the Insurance Information Institute and advocate for the insurance industry, Bill Bailey, recently passed following a fight with cancer. Bill Bailey was a keynote speaker and supporter of the Windstorm Network. He participated in field observations and discussions regarding every major hurricane since Hurricane Andrew. He raised awareness regarding the social importance of insurance and need for better communications between all following major disasters.
I knew Bill Bailey a little differently than many others because I took his deposition a number of times over the past decade.
Bill Bailey was a very bright, Harvard-educated lawyer and gentleman. While he was obviously an advocate of insurance industry positions, we always seemed to have fun in each other’s company. He had me speak regarding claim practice concerns and bad faith law on his radio show, It’s Your Money! Somewhere in our law library is an autographed book he wrote following Hurricane Andrew, Andrew’s Legacy: Winds of Change.
He had a nice way about him, always trying to gain consensus over claims issues with me. I could understand why the insurance industry would hire a person of Bill Bailey’s talents. Others noticed as well. In an article following his death, I noticed the following:
"I’d seen him win over folks that were really upset with the insurance industry. He had a good way about him, his personality," said Bill Davis, a consultant with the III who knew Bailey since he started with the organization in 1986. "He has that Bailey flair, I guess you could say.
The “flair” remark was made because the celebrity attorney, F. Lee Bailey, was Bill Bailey’s brother. Bill always talked fondly of his brother in front of me. But, I wondered what it would be like to have a celebrity brother.
Bill knew so many different people in the insurance business. I enjoyed just listening to his stories and perspectives because they were numerous and varied. As a consumer advocate, I learned a lot from Bill Bailey because he had contact and discussion with many who do not call me for an afternoon of strategy meeting at an insurance company’s home office. I was not surprised to find this quote about his relationship with the past Mississippi Insurance Commissioner:
George Dale, the insurance commissioner of Mississippi for more than three decades, spoke with Bailey about a week before he died on Aug. 21. They talked about Katrina. Dale remembers, as commissioner, being at home when the storm slammed into his state. Bailey called him there, and Dale told him how badly he felt watching the hurricane on TV from his home, 200 miles away from the coast. "Bill, I feel guilty," Dale recalls saying. "I’m sitting here watching the storm on my television … and talking to you in Boston."
Bailey came down to the Gulf a couple of days later, and the two toured the shoreline in a helicopter. When they returned, Dale told reporters, "This is a terrible storm. There’s going to be a lot of claims." And he said that he recognized "some claims are not going to be paid, because water is not covered in certain policies." He said the comment caused him to be criticized and branded as a friend of the insurance industry. Bailey said to him, "George, you were absolutely castigated for telling the truth."
The truth is that Dale was and is a friend of the insurance industry. The other truth is that Bill Bailey had friends from many sides of an issue and knew how to discuss different concerns of people in a manner that made progress. He was deeply concerned about the social responses to disaster and the need for many different organizations to plan and organize for physical catastrophes that lead to emotional trauma. He understood that everybody has a different role that is uniquely important when there is disagreement.
I will miss Bill Bailey and so will many others in the insurance world.