Joe Shear was a lifelong Baptist who worked for many years
with Liberty National Life Insurance Company, now Torchmark. He had great respect
for Frank Samford, the Liberty National founder for whom Samford University
is named, and the respect was mutual.
“When Mr. Samford wrote his book about the first 50 years of Liberty National,
he recognized Joe for his great contributions to the company,” said Marvin
Foster of Birmingham, who worked with Shear at Liberty National and knew him
for 55 years. Shear worked for Liberty National from 1933 until 1972, retiring
as vice president of agents.
“Joe was one of the best people-persons I ever knew,” said Foster. “Everybody
Shear died at 97 in the fall of 2003, leaving Samford a generous bequest.
In addition, part of a trust fund that Joe’s late wife, Sara, established
came to Samford. Together, the gifts totaled more than $655,000, to be used
for academic scholarships.
“Joe loved Samford,” said Foster, “and I think his long friendship
with Trustee Gerow Hodges (also of Liberty National) was one of the main reasons.
He gave to other charities as well, mostly Baptist.”
Shear’s father was a Baptist preacher in Covington County, Ala., for
many years, and one of the charities Shear supported was First Baptist Church
of Opp, in Covington. A deacon at Southside Baptist Church, he also served
on the board of Birmingham Baptist Hospital, now Baptist Health System.