Posted by William Nunnelley on 2004-07-15

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 loved Joe.”

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.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.