Henry W. Bloch was the co-founder and honorary chairman of the board of H&R Block, Inc., which he and his brother, Richard, founded in 1955.
The early years
Henry Bloch was born July 30, 1922, the second son of a prominent Kansas City lawyer. He attended Southwest High School, began his college career at the University of Kansas City – now the University of Missouri-Kansas City – and later transferred to the University of Michigan, from which he graduated in 1944.
Henry joined the Army Air Corps shortly after the United States entered World War II. Serving in the Eighth Air Force as a navigator on B-17 bombers, he flew 32 combat missions over Germany, three of them over Berlin. He was awarded the Air Medal and three Oak Leaf Clusters.
During the war, Henry and his brothers, Leon and Richard, began corresponding with each other about starting a family business, something that the boys’ parents had always encouraged. The Army Air Corps later sent Henry to the Harvard Business School for graduate training in statistical control. While at Harvard, he read a transcript of a speech by Professor Sumner Schlicter, a noted authority on economics and labor relations. Big business and labor had many resources, Professor Schlicter explained, but comparable resources geared to meet the needs of small business did not exist. Henry and his brothers saw an entrepreneurial opportunity to fill this gap.
A dream becomes reality
In 1946, Henry and his brother Leon founded the United Business Company, starting the business with a $5,000 loan. The company offered bookkeeping and other services to small businesses. After a disappointing few months, Leon left the business to return to law school, although Henry persisted.
Later, as the company began to grow, Henry published a help wanted advertisement, seeking to hire an employee. His mother responded to the ad, and recommended that Henry hire his brother, Richard. The two brothers became partners.
United Business Company’s primary focus was bookkeeping, with tax preparation offered as a courtesy to customers and friends. Shortly before the 1955 tax season, Richard and Henry decided to discontinue tax preparation services, which were not a significant source of revenue. But one of their clients offered what turned out to be pivotal counsel. John White, who worked in display advertising at The Kansas City Star, suggested that the company advertise its tax preparation service in the newspaper. After much discussion, John finally persuaded them to run the ad twice, late in January 1955.
On Monday after the first ad ran in The Kansas City Star, Henry was visiting customers when he received an urgent message to call the office. He found himself talking to a breathless Richard, who exclaimed,
“Hank, get back here as quick as you can. We’ve got an office full of people!”
The ad had been published shortly after many people had received their W-2 forms. Additionally, in Kansas City, the Internal Revenue Service had just discontinued its practice of preparing tax returns at no charge to customers. The brothers had uncovered an overwhelming need for tax services.
H&R Block is born
In July 1955, Henry and Richard created a new company, replacing United Business Company with a new firm that specialized in income tax return preparation: H&R Block, Inc.
They named the company “Block” because their family name, “Bloch,” had always been difficult for people to pronounce and spell. “Block” was simpler and could be spelled phonetically. Within weeks, the company grossed more than $20,000 — nearly a third of the annual volume United Business Company had taken years to develop.
Success prompted Richard to suggest expanding the business to New York City, the next city the IRS had scheduled to discontinue its tax preparation services. H&R Block targeted locations as close as possible to IRS offices and opened seven offices in 1956. In only its second year, the company more than tripled revenues to $65,000.
With alternating two-week schedules, Henry and Richard shared responsibilities for the New York offices. However, both had families and neither wanted to move to New York, so they decided to sell the operations there. Two CPAs wanted to buy the New York business, but could not meet the asking price. Instead, the CPAs agreed to pay the Bloch’s $10,000, along with royalties. The H&R Block franchise network was born.
In January 1957, H&R Block opened franchise offices in Columbia, Mo., and Topeka, Kan. A year later, the company opened franchise offices in Des Moines, Iowa; Oklahoma City and Little Rock, Ark.
By 1962, the company had 206 offices and nearly $800,000 in revenues. In that year, H&R Block became a public company with a $300,000 offering of 75,000 shares ($4 per share).
Setting the pace for the future
In the 1970s, H&R Block built a national brand by offering professional services for a mass market. The company established a national presence, increasing the number of tax offices to more than 8,600. Its combined annual growth rate in number of clients served was a slow but steady 2.7 percent; the company’s network of tax offices increased 99 percent.
In 1972, Henry Bloch first appeared in the television commercials that helped build H&R Block into one of the most widely recognized brands in American business. Henry’s personal integrity along with his simple and direct Midwestern style personified the company’s sincere commitment to clients. He continued to appear in H&R Block television ads for more than 20 years.
By 1978, H&R Block offices prepared more than one out of every nine tax returns filed in the United States. With that growth came the challenge of hiring enough qualified tax professionals. The company created H&R Block Income Tax Schools to fill the need.
The company faced another challenge in 1978: Richard Bloch, the chairman of the company, was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and told he had three months to live. Richard refused to accept the bleak prognosis. He participated in two years of intensive therapy and defeated the disease. In 1980, he dedicated his life to helping others fight cancer. In 1982, he sold his interest in the company, resigned his position as chairman and dedicated his time to supporting cancer research and education.
Working with the IRS and Sears in 1986, H&R Block took a leadership role in the pilot test of electronic filing. That year, the company filed 22,000 returns electronically from two sites: Cincinnati and Phoenix. The test was a success. Electronic filing decreased the number of filing errors, and moreover, significantly reduced the amount of time required for a taxpayer to receive a refund.
In 1989, Henry became chairman of the board, filling a position that had been vacant since his brother, Richard, left the business in 1982. He retired as chairman in 2000, when he assumed the title of chairman emeritus.
Building stronger relationships with clients
Speed of refund was a key driver of client growth in the 1990s and the company enjoyed a decade of the fastest growth in its history.
In the late 1990s, H&R Block made some significant acquisitions to support clients’ tax and financial needs. In 2006, the company opened the H&R Block Bank, a federal savings bank and member FDIC. During the 2007 tax season, the Bank launched the H&R Block Emerald Prepaid MasterCard as a way to help many of its tax clients begin to use traditional financial services products. The Bank opened more than 2 million prepaid debit card accounts its first year.
By 2011, the company sold Option One Mortgage Corp., H&R Block Financial Advisors, and RSM McGladrey and began to focus on its core of tax preparation. Today, H&R Block remains committed to serving clients in the manner that they prefer – in a retail office, using digital tax solutions or a blend of both. The company has prepared approximately 800 million tax returns in more than 12,000 worldwide retail offices and with digital tax solutions since 1955.
A legacy of leadership, commitment
In addition to building a successful business, Henry was widely known as a civic leader and philanthropist who had dedicated a lifetime of work to building a stronger community and improving the quality of life in his hometown of Kansas City.
“I’ve always wanted to do something different, something more than just a job, something to contribute to society,” Henry once said.
Bloch passed away in 2019 at the age of 96. Henry and his late wife, Marion, were life-long residents of Kansas City and had four children, 12 grandchildren, 19 great-grandchildren together.
Henry was widely known as a businessman, civic leader and philanthropist who worked to improve the quality of life in his hometown of Kansas City. After his retirement from H&R Block, Mr. Bloch worked daily on his many philanthropic endeavors in Kansas City, including the Henry W. Bloch School of Management at the University of Missouri – Kansas City, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Saint Luke’s Hospital and The H & R Block Foundation.
In 2011, Henry and his wife, Marion, established the Marion and Henry Bloch Family Foundation to continue their philanthropic legacy. The Foundation builds on the couple’s vision and values to improve the quality of life in Greater Kansas City through thoughtful, innovative and responsible philanthropy.
Henry W. Bloch’s Personal Achievements
- Born July 30, 1922 – Kansas City, Missouri
- Married Marion Helzberg on June 16, 1951
- Father of four children: Robert, Thomas, Mary Jo and Elizabeth Ann
- 12 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren
- Served as First Lieutenant in the United States Air Force from 1943-1945
- Decorated Air Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters, Presidential Citation
Henry held a Bachelor’s of science degree from the University of Michigan. He also received honorary doctorates from:
- Doctor of Humanities, Washington University – 2014
- Associate in Arts, Donnelly College – 2013
- Doctor of Laws, University of Michigan – 2005
- Doctor of Fine Arts, Kansas City Art Institute – 1999
- Doctor of Laws, William Jewell College, Liberty, Missouri – 1990
- Doctor of Business Administration, University of Missouri-Kansas City – 1989
- Doctor of Laws, New Hampshire College, Manchester, New Hampshire – 1983
- Doctor of Business Administration, Avila College, Kansas City, Missouri – 1977
Through the years, Henry was honored as an entrepreneur, philanthropist and for his exceptional service to the Kansas City business and cultural communities. Among his honors were:
- ArtsKC Corporate Leader Award – 2019
- Philanthropist of the Year, Ingram’s Magazine – 2017
- Veteran’s Award, Harry S. Truman Good Neighbor Award Foundation – 2017
- Missouri Public Affairs Hall of Fame, Missouri State University – 2016
- J. Philip Kirk JR. Award, Downtown Council of Kansas City – 2016
- Lifetime Achievement in Entrepreneurial Mentoring Award, Helzberg Entrepreneurial Mentoring Program – 2015
- Award for Contributions to the Community, International Relations Council – 2016
- Civic Service Award, Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy – 2015
- Inducted into University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Entrepreneur Hall of Fame – 2014
- October 14, 2014 is declared “Henry W. Bloch Entrepreneurship Day” in Kansas City, Kansas City, Missouri City Council – 2014
- Growing Philanthropy Award for Exemplary Civic Leadership, Avila University’s Hartsook Institute for Fundraising – 2014
- Community Guardian Award, Ad Hoc Group Against Crime – 2014
- Lifetime Achievement Award, Missouri Arts Council – 2013
- Keynote Speaker, Johnson County NAACP – 2013
- A Tribute to Henry Bloch, Walter Cronkite – 2013
- Award of Distinction, University of Missouri-Kansas City – 2013
- Lamar Hunt Game Changer Award, Kansas City Chiefs – 2012
- Trustee Excellence Award, University of Missouri-Kansas City – 2011
- Founder and Mentor, High Aspirations – 2011
- Distinguished Friend of Education Award, Council for Advancement and Support of Education – 2010
- Foundation Fellow Award, Saint Luke’s Foundation – 2008
- President’s Citation, MC Penn Valley – 2007-2008
- BCA Leadership Award – 2007
- Business Committee for the Arts Leadership Award – 2007
- University of Missouri – Kansas City Legacy Award – 2007
- Brain Tumor Foundation Inaugural Tribute – 2006
- University of Missouri – Kansas City International Entrepreneur of the Year – 2005
- Swope Health Services Great Leaders Award – 2001
- University of Kansas Distinguished Service Citation – 2001
- Henry Wollman Bloch Memorial Fountain – 2001
- National Business Hall of Fame, Junior Achievement – 2001
- Centurians Leadership Award – 2000
- Southwest High School Hall of Fame – 2000
- MRI Citation Award – 1999
- Baker University Distinguished Business Leadership – 1998
- Boy Scouts – Distinguished Citizen – 1997
- United Way deTocqueville Society – Special Recognition – 1997
- Delta Sigma Pi International Fraternity – 1996
- Juvenile Diabetes Foundation – Walk for the Cure – 1996
- Stop Violence Coalition – Kindest Kansas Citian – 1996
- Starlight Theatre Star Award – 1995
- Academy of Distinguished Entrepreneurs – Babson College – 1994
- Gillis Spirit Award – 1993
- Missouri Arts Award – 1993
- Entrepreneur of the Year – Ernst & Young/Inc. Magazine/Merrill Lynch – 1993
- Man of the Year, Zeta Beta Tau Fraternity – 1992
- Quincentennial Columbian of the Year, American Sons of Columbus – 1992
- The Sales & Marketing Executives International Academy of Achievement Award – 1991
- Kansas Citian of the Year, Native Sons of Kansas City – 1991
- Distinguished Business Award, Missouri Community College Association – 1991
- Honorary Member, Golden Key National Honor Society – University of Missouri-Kansas City – 1989
- Philanthropist of the Year, Greater Kansas City Council on Corp. Philanthropy – 1989
- State of Missouri Academy of Squires – 1989
- Mainstreeter of the Decade – 1988
- Corporate Superstar – Cystic Fibrosis – 1987
- Distinguished Service Award, University of Hartford – 1987
- Entrepreneur of the Year, UMKC – 1986
- Bronze Award, Chief Executive of the Year-Service Industry, Financial World – 1985
- Entrepreneur of the Year, Babson College – 1984
- Lester A. Milgram Humanitarian Award – 1983
- International Franchise Association Hall of Fame Award – 1983
- Distinguished Missourian Award, National Conference of Christians & Jews – 1982
- Executive of the Year, Jackson County Economic Development Commission – 1982
- Hall of Fame Award, International Franchise Association – 1982
- Bronze Award, Service Industry, Wall Street Transcript – 1981
- W. F. Yates Medallion for Distinguished Service in Civic Affairs, William Jewell College – 1981
- Chancellor’s Medal, University of Missouri at Kansas City – 1980
- Civic Service Award of the Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy – 1980
- Golden Plate Award, American Academy of Achievement – 1980
- Business Leader Hall of Fame, Junior Achievement – 1980
- President’s Trophy, Kansas City, Missouri Jaycees – 1980
- “Mr. Kansas City” Award, Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City – 1978
- Salesman of the Year, Kansas City Ad. Club – 1978
- Distinguished Executive Award, Boy Scouts of America – 1977
- Who’s Who in America – 1976
- Financial World Chief Executive Officer of the Year (Service Industry) – 1976
- Man-of-the-Month Fraternity – 1976
- National Jewish Hospital Philanthropic Award – 1976
- Marketing Man of the Year, Sales and Marketing Executive Club – 1971
- Retired Officers Association Life Member
Henry W. Bloch’s Business Affiliations
Mr. Bloch’s most recent affiliations included:
- H&R Block, Inc. (Honorary Chairman)
- Marion and Henry Bloch Family Foundation (Trustee, Chairman Emeritus and Director)
- The H & R Block Foundation (Chairman Emeritus and Director)
- Henry W. Bloch School of Management at the University of Missouri – Kansas City
- The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (Honorary Trustee)
- Saint Luke’s Hospital Foundation (Trustee Emeritus)
- WWII 75th Anniversary Honorary Committee, Friends of the National WWII Memorial
- Making a Museum KC, Kansas City Museum Foundation Capital Campaign (Honorary Chair)
Mr. Bloch served as past corporate director for:
- H&R Block, Inc.
- SBC Corporation
- Graphic Technology, Inc.
- Jason Empire, Inc.
- National Fidelity Life Insurance Co.
- The Vendo Company
- Valentine-Radford, Inc.
- Path Management Industries
- Employers Reinsurance Corporation
- Commerce Bank of Kansas City
- Commerce Bancshares, Inc.
- CompuServe, Inc.
Mr. Bloch served as past-president or chairman for:
- Marion and Henry Bloch Family Foundation
- The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
- Business Committee for the Arts – Kansas City
- Henry W. and Marion H. Bloch Foundation
- Business Council of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
- Midwest Research Institute
- Civic Council of Greater Kansas City
- Foundation for a Greater Kansas City
- Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce
- University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC)
- Heart of America United Way – General Chairman
- Symphony Ball (Honorary Chairman)
- Alexis de Tocqueville Society (United Way)
- Indian Hills Homes Association
- Jacob L. & Ella C. Loose Foundation
- Menorah Medical Foundation
- National Alliance of Businessmen
- UNCF Annual Campaign
- Kansas City Area Development Council
- Greater Kansas City Community Foundation (past Vice Chairman)
He served as past-director or trustee for:
- World War I Museum (Trustee Emeritus)
- Brain Tumor Foundation (New York)
- Harry S. Truman Library
- St. Luke’s Hospital Foundation (Campaign Cabinet)
- American Jewish Committee
- American Royal Association
- Construction Users Council
- Menorah Medical Center
- Rockhurst College Board of Regents
- Clearinghouse for Midcontinent Foundations
- Scientific Education Partnership Foundation
- President’s Advisory Council of Kansas City Philharmonic Association
- Council of Fellows of the Nelson Gallery Foundation
- Harry S. Truman Good Neighbor Award Foundation
- Jewish Federation
- Kansas City Symphony (Founding Trustee)
- Kansas City Art Institute
- Americans for National Service
- St. Luke’s Hospital
- St. Luke’s Hospital Foundation
- Corporate Fund of The Kennedy Center
- Kansas City Museum of History and Science
- KC Minority Supplier Development Council