Getting personal

If you can't find Roy Scarborough Jr., no one will believe you.


"He's always had an aversion to voice mail. He's always felt that people want to talk to a person," said Suzy Dekle, who has worked for the Augusta insurance agent for 28 years. "One of the things he has always done is tell people, 'Do not screen my calls.' Anyone that calls him gets through."

The company is Meybohm Scarborough Insurance, a moniker derived from a merger with the Augusta real estate brokerage in 2005 as a way to sell insurance to home buyers. Matching real estate and insurance is a good way to create a feeder system, Mr. Scarborough explained.

Earlier this year, the agency was on Reynolds Street, across from where his father once ran a restaurant. The agency is now on Wheeler Road in the west Augusta center of banking, real estate and insurance.

Some items remain in the old office, such as his desk nameplate. But that Roy Scarborough was his father, an Augusta councilman.

Despite growing up in his father's restaurants, Mr. Scarborough saw his future in a different profession, impressed in high school by two Sunday school teachers who were insurance agents.

He also has been a Gideon, delivering Bibles to businesses and schools, for nearly as long as he's been an insurance man.

"The most honest man I know," said commercial service manager Alicia Rhoades, a 26-year employee. "We've been accused of being too honest by another company."

Mr. Scarborough is simply following a piece of advice given to him early in his career: To have a good agency, write good accounts.

He is as proud of the Trusted Choice symbol on his sign as he is the Independent Insurance Agency symbol, the eagle dotting the "I."

"That's as high as you can go, that Trusted Choice designation. You have to apply for it. You have to have the covenant executed. It is a standard that means you handle it first class," he said.

At 7 a.m. on a recent Thursday, he was delivering a bid bond, driving it to a client in North Augusta.

"Fellow called it in after 4 yesterday," he explained.

They have auto and life and health insurance, but bonding contractors is a large part of their business.

"I love the insurance business, always have," Mr. Scarborough said. "I love it and some times I think I'm the only person that does."

Happily insured

He spent his formative years working in his father's restaurants. His interest in insurance came from Curtis Baptist Church Sunday school teachers W.A. Gibbs Jr. and H. Burts Taylor, both insurance agents.

"They were active in the church and good Christian leaders. Highly respected," Mr. Scarborough said. "I always thought I'd work with them, but I never did."

Another thing he never did was follow his father into politics.

When he married Joyce, she gave him a "sincere request" that he not delve into politics. She didn't want to be arguing with people over how good or how bad her husband was.

He said he never had an interest in politics anyway, and so obeyed the request. He recalled what a preacher said at the end of a wedding ceremony as he turned to the groom and said, "You can be right or you can be happy."

"Daddy enjoyed being a councilman. Coming off a farm in middle Georgia, he did just fine," Mr. Scarborough said.

His father was a 4th Ward Augusta Council member from 1958 to 1964. He died in 1968. Known as "Red" because of his hair, he had left the farm in Wrightsville, Ga., and moved to Augusta in 1924 to look for work.

After a short stint at a mill, Red Scarborough went to work in a restaurant. In 1931, he opened his own, S and S Coffee Shop, at Eighth and Ellis streets. His son said it was the city's first air-conditioned restaurant:

"He said Georgia Power made more off of it than he did. Nobody would go home. They would just sit around and drink coffee all day."

Roy Scarborough was born to Red and Anna in 1935, the youngest of four children. An "afterthought," he jested. His siblings were seven to 14 years older.

Red's second restaurant, The Trailway Grill at Greene and Seventh streets, was a 24-hours-a-day restaurant.

"If you have an operation that works around the clock, you get to a certain age, you got to go down and work half a shift," he said.

The grill was the local headquarters for Democrats for Ike.

"Cooked him a sugar-cured ham when (President Eisenhower) was elected and came to the (Augusta) National," he said.

A thank-you letter to Red for the ham is mounted on Mr. Scarborough's wall.

When he graduated from Richmond Academy in 1953, he was among the first class that went to school for 12 years, not 11.

"When I got to Richmond Academy, they called us subfreshmen. They didn't know what to do with us. We didn't have rifles. We were marching around out there and everyone else had rifles," he said.

In a few years, he would trade in his rifle for a 1-ton rocket.

Life stories

Spend enough time around Roy Scarborough and you'll hear some incredible stories, Ms. Dekle said. He calls her "Squirt" because she was "so young" when she started working for him nearly three decades ago.

Some of the best stories are about his golf game. He has hit two holes-in-one, in 1973 and 1979. Both scorecards hang on his office wall. The stories come out like they happened yesterday, remembered in part because he was playing both times with a now-deceased friend.

In 1979 at Waynesville Country Club, the shot went in on the No. 7 hole, a par 3. His group and the group ahead on the next tee saw it go in the cup. The club pro was on a nearby practice tee.

"He said, 'Do it again, we wasn't looking,' " Mr. Scarborough said.

His golf game has slowed down. Twice a week has become once in a while.

Not all of his stories have such happy endings. He was a good-enough football player at the Academy of Richmond County to win a football scholarship to the University of Georgia. He was among six players from the class of 1953 to get one.

He was a center turned linebacker. Then he was injured in a spring drill -- three vertebrae in his back.

"I survived it. They took my bed out and put a bench in to sleep on," he said.

The injury kept him from playing on the field and nearly kept him from becoming an officer in the Army.

He went to work for insurance company Royal Globe two days after graduation. After only 45 days in Atlanta, he got an active-duty notice from Uncle Sam.

Despite his football injury, he stayed in the Reserve Officers' Training Corps. There was a physical to determine whether his back injury would force him to resign before accepting his commission.

The Army sent him to learn about missiles. He spent most of his two years in service in New York near Lake Ontario, where the Defense Department had a battery of anti-air missiles.

The Cold War was on. His missiles were the Nike Ajax and Hercules types, designed to shoot down other missiles.

He said they needed to be hundreds of miles away from the population centers of New York City and Chicago in order to have the range to intercept an incoming nuclear warhead.

After his two years of Army service were complete, he went to New York City, two blocks off Wall Street, to resume his employment with Royal Globe.

He had married Joyce as a sophomore in college. They had grown up together, in both church and school, but they had an earlier connection.

"She'll tell you we were in the cradle roll at Curtis Baptist Church," he said.

The couple moved to Augusta in 1961. He took a job at Sherman & Hemstreet, with an office on Broad Street.

He ultimately became one of the firm's owners, and after 18 years of shared ownership, he bought out his two partners in 1991.

"Great people that got along good. It was a business decision that worked out fine," he said.

The agency was renamed Roy Scarborough and Associates.

In November 2005, the name became Meybohm Scarborough when E.G. Meybohm, a longtime client, wanted to start a joint venture with him.

In ministry

In 1962, Mr. Scarborough became a deacon at Curtis Baptist and a Gideon.

"We meet on Saturday mornings for a prayer breakfast at the Partridge Inn. We get in an unused room, doing our reading and praying," he said. While they are together, the chairman plans out the Bible distributions.

The Gideons, on the whole, print 1.5 million Bibles a week. They distribute them to hotels and colleges; many times it is to replenish Bibles that have gone missing or have been destroyed.

"That Bible you see in the (hotel) rooms, three-fourths of the world's population can read one verse. It was translated so that three quarters of the world's people can read John 3:16," he said.

The Gideons distribute testaments in 185 countries now.

The old Bibles aren't trashed -- they go to prison ministries. There's nothing wrong with the books, he said.

"We do have a problem with the ACLU and people that hate God and don't want you to have Bibles," he said. "Russia is so thankful that you'd be surprised. Over here, they're fighting you, don't want you in the schools."

Always on call

The 73-year-old is still heavily involved in the bond side of the insurance business. It takes a good relationship with underwriters to get things done smoothly, he said.

"We bond contractors, so we're into their financials. We know more about you than a banker does. A bank has property as collateral. In insurance, you are my collateral," Ms. Rhoades said.

Mr. Scarborough doesn't start talking about the fee until the contractor gets the job. The usual premium is more than $10,000, but he's had one as high as $450,000. That was for an $86 million government job.

He is serious about being available to a client at any time. The message at work says clients can call his home, which is set up with call forwarding to his cell phone.

"It is my dedication to the business. I can be found," he said.

When he's in a meeting, he hands his cell phone to his wife, just in case.

For all of the technology in the phones that he uses, there is no computer on his desk.

"They'll never be one on his desk. Not for show, not for any reason," Ms. Dekle said.

Mr. Scarborough might look over her shoulder at a screen to be shown something, but he doesn't operate a computer. Office workers print out his e-mails for him to read.

When he says the insurance business has changed, he means more than the technology involved.

When Ms. Rhoades started more than 25 years ago, customer service representatives did a lot of paper-pushing because the insurance companies did a lot of the work. These days, agents do the ratings.

There is a family atmosphere in the Scarborough agency, Ms. Dekle said.

"He's a good boss; he's concerned about your family; lets you do what you need for them," she said.

His children did not follow him into the insurance business. Son Tim works for Dixie Lock & Safe in Aiken. Daughter Tricia works for Iwanta in North Augusta.

What he likes about his business is that it is a profession from which he need never retire. His agency is structured with good people around him.

"Personal relationships and business relationships are real. Just enjoy them," he said.

Ms. Dekle said: "He's probably forgotten more about insurance than I'll ever know. He'll retire after I do."

Reach Tim Rausch at (706) 823-3352 or


BORN: April 14, 1935, Augusta

EDUCATION: Bachelor of insurance, University of Georgia, 1957

CIVIC: Augusta Exchange Club

FAMILY: Wife, Joyce; children, Tim and Tricia

HOBBIES: Golf, hunting



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