The ethos of the original Sunshine Boys, who founded, the Sunshine Group Ltd., in the Bahamas, in the mid 1970s, and that of W. W. Parker, a Bahamian, in 1922, bear an uncanny comparability. The comparability is so strong, that Parker, could be said to be an early 20th century version of the post independence successful businessmen called the “Sunshine Boys.”

“A group of young men out to prove that Bahamians of humble origins could own and manage big businesses in The Bahamas formed what is today known as Sunshine Holdings Limited. Shortly after The Bahamas became independent in 1973, a group of friends – some of whom had recently returned from college abroad – decided to pool their resources and cooperate to create business opportunities.”

The Story of the Sunshine Group

The Early 1900s

In those first few decades moving into the 1900s, we read so much about the racial segregation and discrimination British West Indian negroes faced, both in their native Caribbean countries, and especially when they ventured abroad. Negroes and Whites had separate everything. They lived in strictly designated parts. They went to separate schools. They sat in different parts of the church. They were even buried separately, in the cemetery.

Within this vast paradigm of racial struggle, it is easy forget that there were a number of inspiring success stories.

Walter Wilfred Parker was born in the Bahamas. He emigrated to Florida, in 1903. Parker was quite possibly sent as a boy by his family, in the hopes of him getting an education. Undoubtedly, it was the kind of education, which wasn’t readily available, to negroes, in the Bahamas, in 1903.

Some twenty-five years later, W. W. Parker returned to Nassau. His reason for returning was to buy a negro owned insurance company.

W. W. Parker, in the middle of the largest economic depression the world had ever seen, is one inspiring negro business success story in Bahamian history.

(The Pittsburgh Courier, Saturday 15 December 1928)

In the first half of the 20th century, many negro led businesses flourished because of one simple thing. Negroes were the only ones, at the time, willing to sell, trade, employ and fairly pay, other negroes. Few whites had the wherewithal or want to set up shop in negro populated areas, which, at the time, were separated from white urban and suburban areas by law.

1928 – Walter Wilfred Parker’s Dream of Success Comes to Fruition

Walter Wilfred Parker emigrated from the Bahamas, to go attend high school in South Florida in 1903. By 1908, just five years later, he took a job as an insurance salesman. At some point after 1908, while he was working selling insurance, Parker decided to take a correspondence course in law. To complete this would have taken several years. In 1920, Parker sat the bar exam for the state of Florida and passed.

By 1922, W. W. Parker decided to quit his job and devote himself full time to the practice of law, and his own business ventures. He was through working for others. He decided to build for himself.

“Attorney W. W. Parker came to the mainland of the United States at Miami in August, 1903, to further his education. He came to Jacksonville in 1907. He finished a course at the Florida Baptist College, Saint Augustine, in 1914. He started work in 1908 as agent for the Union Mutual Insurance Company in Jacksonville and worked up through the various departments to the general managership, which he was holding when he resigned in January, 1922, to devote all his time to the practice of law.

In the meantime, while working for the mutual he had taken a correspondence course in law from the Chicago law school, and probably to the surprise of many who don’t believe in education by mail, Mr Parker took the Florida Bar on the basis of his correspondence study and passed, in 1920. He was admitted to the bar through the Supreme Court of the state. At the time he took the examination he was the only coloured applicant of 23, and seven of those who took the test failed. Mr Parker passed with a high average.”

(The Pittsburgh Courier, Saturday 15 December 1928)

Walter Wilfred Parker, An Early 20th Century “Sunshine Boy”

Successful negro owned cooperative businesses, had long been deemed a mythical fantasy, especially in The Bahamas. It had become

In the late 1970s however, a group of Bahamians got together, pooled their resources and created, with much determination and effort, a successful group of companies. The group of companies is called The Sunshine Group, and the men who started it, The Sunshine Boys.

Sunshine Group of Companies Ltd.

Bradley B. E. Roberts Foundation – One of the original Sunshine Boys

In 1922, W. W. Parker, did the same thing. He built a business with a group of other like minded individuals. Oddly enough, in 1922 and in the late 1970s, both groups of aspiring businesspersons began with forming a larger service insurance company.

Parker called together, J. A. Colter, E. Vaughn, I. E. Williams, S. D. McGill, Rosa B. Matthews, L. F. Armitage, F. J. Thorington and I. A. White to form a company. One of the primary goals for the company was to provide jobs for other negroes. In 1922, this was W. W. Parker’s dream.

(The Pittsburgh Courier, Saturday 15 December 1928)

On July 3, 1922, with a $25,000 collective investment, the Citizens Industrial Insurance Company began with W. W. Parker as its elected president.

Six years later, in 1928, the Citizens Industrial Insurance Company, with an all negro staff, were having incredible success.

The Citizens Industrial Insurance Company had between 75,000 to 100,000 policyholders, had paid 30% in dividends, had 45 branch offices, employed 20 people in the home office and had a field staff of 175.

In 1927, the company had paid out $74,478.91 in salaries and commissions.

W. W. Parker and the Citizens Industrial Insurance Company Becomes the Model For Negro Business and the Envy of White Businesses

(The Pittsburgh Courier, Saturday 15 December 1928)

1927 – W. W. Parker Owned Homes Which He Rented in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Oddly enough, the Sunshine Group, in the 1980s, would also invest substantially in low cost affordable homes, just like W. W. Parker did in 1927.

(Fort Lauderdale News, Thursday 26 January 1927)

Parker Returns Home to Nassau in the Middle of the Wall Street Crash To Buy Profitable Negro Owned Insurance Company

In 1930, as the effects of the Great Depression initiated by the Wall Street Crash, began to spread across the United States, Walter Wilfred Parker was enjoying uncommon success. Parker was so successful that he returned home to Nassau to purchase the People’s Life Insurance Company Ltd, a negro owned business. The People’s Life Insurance Company of Nassau employed 15 negroes.

(The Pittsburgh Courier, Saturday 10 May 1930)