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H&R Block


BLOCK, H & R, U.S. tax preparation and financial services firm.

HENRY WOLLMAN BLOCH (1922– ) was born in Kansas City, Mo., the second son of a prominent lawyer. He began his college career at the University of Missouri but transferred to the University of Michigan, from which he graduated in 1944. He joined the Army Air Corps and as a navigator on B-17 bombers he flew 31 combat missions over Germany. He was awarded the Air Medal and three Oak Leaf Clusters. The Army Air Corps sent him to the Harvard Business School for training in statistical control. Bloch came under the influence of Sumner Schlicter, a noted economist, who suggested that small business did not have the resources of big business and labor. In 1946 Bloch and his brother Leon founded the United Business Company to offer bookkeeping and other services to small businesses. After a year, Leon left the business to return to law school. But as the company grew, Henry was joined by another brother, Richard, and they offered bookkeeping and tax services to small businesses. Shortly before the 1955 tax season, they placed an ad in The Kansas City Star offering tax preparation. The Internal Revenue Service had just discontinued free tax preparation so the Blochs' skills were in demand. The Blochs named the company H&R Block because, they said, the family name had been difficult for people to pronounce and Block could be spelled phonetically. Their success prompted Richard to suggest expanding to New York City, the next city the IRS stopped servicing. H&R Block opened seven offices in 1956 and in its second year the company more than tripled revenues. By 1962 the company had 206 offices and became a public company.

In the 1970s H&R Block built a national brand by offering professional services for a mass market. Beginning in 1972 Henry Bloch appeared in television commercials, which also helped build H&R Block into a national firm. Soon there were 8,600 offices. By 1978 the company offices prepared more than one of every nine tax returns filed in the United States, and by the turn of the century it had over 100,000 associates at more than 12,000 offices around the world.

Widely known as a businessman, civil leader, and avid supporter of the arts in Kansas City, Henry served on the boards of the American Jewish Committee and the Jewish Federation.

RICHARD BLOCH (1926–2004) entered the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania at the age of 16. 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, he returned to Kansas City and worked in the municipal bond business before joining his brother.

In 1978 Richard was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and was told he had three months to live. Refusing to accept this diagnosis, he underwent aggressive therapy for two years and was pronounced cured. He promised himself that if he survived he would devote his life to helping others fight cancer. By 1980 he was fulfilling his commitment; in 1982 he sold his interest in H&R Block. Richard and his wife founded the Cancer Hotline in 1980. It educates and provides information to thousands of newly diagnosed cancer patients and their families. They 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. Richard Bloch and his wife, Annette, wrote three books about fighting cancer. Their cancer foundation oversees annual rallies each year on the first Sunday in June to raise awareness that death and cancer are not synonymous. At the first rally, in 1990, they dedicated a park to Americans who have been diagnosed with cancer. Since then the Blochs have completed 19 additional cancer survivor parks. Richard Bloch also served a six-year term on the National Cancer Advisory Board.

[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.