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In 1955, two brothers created a company that specialized in income tax return preparation. Today that company has approximately 12,000 retail offices worldwide. These are the stories of the men who founded H&R Block – Henry and Richard Bloch.
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.Learn More
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 – 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.
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 Richard and Henry to run the ad twice, late in January 1955.
On the 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 taxpayers. The brothers had uncovered an overwhelming and timely need for tax services.
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. Targeting locations as close as possible to IRS offices, H&R Block 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 relocate to New York, so they eventually 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).
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.
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 and 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, Henry has 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 holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree from the University of Michigan. He also has received honorary degrees from:
Through the years, Henry has been honored for his exceptional service to the Kansas City business and cultural communities, as an entrepreneur and philanthropist. Among his honors are:
Henry’s most recent affiliations include:
Henry has served as past corporate director for:
Henry has served as past–president or chairman for:
Henry has served as past-director or trustee for:
Entrepreneur, philanthropist and cancer survivor Richard A. Bloch created one of America’s most famous brands when he and his brother Henry co-founded H&R Block in 1955. But it was his personal battle with cancer in the late 1970s that led him to pursue another important quest as a passionate crusader in helping others fight and overcome the disease.Learn More
Richard Bloch was born Feb. 15, 1926. His entrepreneurial spirit sparked in the fourth grade when he found a hand press in his uncle’s attic and began his first business as a printer. By age 12, he had three automatic presses and was providing printing services to several Kansas City high schools. Before entering college, he sold his business to an Iowa college to use as a print course teaching model.
At the age of 16, Richard entered the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania. The youngest member of his class, he received a Bachelor of Science degree in economics in 1945. Ever the entrepreneur, while in college he purchased and repaired used cars and sold them for a profit to help pay for college expenses.
After graduation, Richard returned to Kansas City, married his wife, Annette, and began working in the municipal bond business. Meanwhile, Richard’s brothers Henry and Leon launched the United Business Co. bookkeeping business. Needing Richard’s accounting skills, Henry and Leon asked him to join them in the business.
Richard left the business for about a year in 1953 to become a retail jewelry efficiency expert. Being stranded from his family while on a business trip to San Francisco over Christmas Eve helped Richard realize that returning to his family in Kansas City was a top priority. Soon after Richard’s return, brother Leon left the bookkeeping business to pursue a career as an attorney.
In 1955, Henry and Richard renamed the business H&R Block and began focusing on tax preparation services. While Henry concentrated on managing the company in Kansas City, Richard put his energy and talent toward opening offices nationwide. By 1969, Richard was ready for a new challenge. He concentrated on expanding into the international market while Henry took charge of the company’s domestic business.
In 1978, Richard was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, and was told he had three months to live. Refusing to accept this prognosis, he sought treatment at the M.D. Anderson Center in Houston. After two years of aggressive therapy, he was cured. During the darkest hours of his battle, Richard made a promise to himself. If he survived, he would devote his life to helping others fight cancer. By 1980, he was fulfilling his commitment, and in 1982 he sold his interest in H&R Block.
Richard and Annette moved from his private battle to a public fight against cancer by founding the Cancer Hotline in 1980. The hotline, one of the first of its kind, inspires and educates thousands of newly diagnosed cancer patients and their friends and family about available treatment resources. The hotline is supported by volunteers who have had or are battling cancer. The services are provided for free, and donations are solicited.
The Blochs also founded the R. A. Bloch Cancer Management Center and the R. A. Bloch Cancer Support Center at the University of Missouri in Kansas City. From 1980 to 1995, the Management Center offered Kansas City area patients a free multidisciplinary second opinion panel. The panel, comprised of more than 100 physicians, helped patients identify the best cancer treatment available. Over the years, the Bloch Cancer Management Center has served as a model for more than 125 centers that have been established nationwide. Some, like the Support Center, offer free services in relaxing, comfortable gathering places for patients and their supporters to share experiences and knowledge.
Richard’s vision of a national network of cancer information became a reality when the National Cancer Institute implemented the Physician’s Data Query (PDQ). This site provides information about state-of-the-art treatment for every type and stage of cancer and all the current experimental therapies. Site information is gathered from cancer centers around the world and is continuously updated by staff researchers. To honor Richard’s efforts, the government named the Bethesda, Maryland building the R. A. Bloch International Cancer Information Center. Most government-issued cancer information is disseminated from the Center.
Richard and Annette have authored three books: Cancer… There’s Hope is the story of Annette and Richard’s fight against his “terminal” lung cancer; Fighting Cancer is a step-by-step guide for cancer patients to help themselves fight the disease; and Guide for Cancer Supporters helps family and friends support cancer patients. All are available free through the Cancer Hotline at (800) 433-0464 or at www.blochcancer.org.
The R.A. Bloch Cancer Foundation in Kansas City manages the Cancer Hotline and website (www.blochcancer.org). The Foundation also oversees annual Fighting Cancer Rallies to raise awareness that death and cancer are not synonymous and to encourage victims that there can be life after a cancer diagnosis. More than 700 community rallies are held simultaneously the first Sunday in June.
During the initial rally in Kansas City in June 1990, the first Richard & Annette Bloch Cancer Survivors’ Park was dedicated to Americans who have been diagnosed with cancer. Each park represents a tribute to life. Since then, the Blochs have completed 19 additional cancer survivor parks throughout the country.
In 1982, President Ronald Reagan appointed Richard to a six-year term with the National Cancer Advisory Board. He was a member of the President’s Circle of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, and is a former board member of the National Institute of Health’s Office of Alternative Medicine. He also received the 1994 American Society of Clinical Oncology’s Public Service Award and the 1995 Layman’s Award from the Society of Surgical Oncology.
In the late 1980s Richard claimed another victory when he fought and beat colon cancer. Richard Bloch’s relentless commitment to conquering cancer offers us all a legacy of hope.
“There is no such thing as false hope for a cancer patient,” says Richard Bloch.
“Hope is as unique with each individual as a finger print. For some it is the hope to make a complete recovery. But it might also be the hope to die peacefully; the hope to live until a specific event happens; the hope to live with disease; the hope to have their doctor with them when needed; the hope to enjoy today.”
Richard passed away on July 21, 2004, of heart failure and is survived by his wife Annette in Kansas City, Missouri; three daughters, Linda Lyon of Kansas City, Barbara Stanny of Port Townsend, Washington and Nancy Linsley of Corona del Mar, California; and 10 grandchildren.Read Summary