Elena Diaz-Verson Amos (1926-2000)
Philanthropist Elena Diaz-Verson Amos, a Cuban immigrant, was active in educational, philanthropic, and political causes and dedicated to increasing intercultural understanding. Her husband, John Amos, founded the Aflac insurance company in Columbus in 1955. In 1997 the publication Hispanic Business called her the wealthiest Hispanic woman in the United States.
Amos was born in 1926 in Havana, Cuba, to Teresa Bana and Salvador Diaz-Verson, an author and journalist who had also been an anticommunist activist and, at one point, chief of Cuba's national police. In 1944 she came to the United States as an exchange student at the University of Miami in Florida, where she met John Amos. The couple married and had two children, John Shelby and Maria Teresa.
In 1954 the Amos family moved to Jacksonville, Florida, where John Amos, an attorney, was a partner in the Presidential Insurance Company. Shortly thereafter, he decided to start his own company, and in 1955 the Amoses moved again, to Columbus, Georgia, where John Amos and his brothers founded the American Family Life Assurance Company, which later became known as Aflac.
Throughout her husband's career, Amos was an active corporate spouse and community volunteer. She hosted many business and social gatherings at their home and served on numerous boards, including those of the Girl Scouts, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Springer Opera House, and State Botanical Garden. The Amoses lived in a house on Steam Mill Road, to which they added rooms as needed until John Amos became ill in the late 1980s. He then built a Mediterranean-style hacienda on the roof of the parking garage within the Aflac corporate headquarters' grounds, in which his wife lived for the rest of her life.
Amos also engaged in educational activities in Columbus, particularly those that increased knowledge about Latin America, and participated in a study group based at Columbus College (later Columbus State University). With her husband, she lobbied the U.S. Army to relocate the School of the Americas, a training center for Latin American military officers and police, to Fort Benning. The school opened in Columbus in 1984 and remains in existence under a new name, the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. The library at the institute is named for John and Elena Amos. Amos also endowed a position at Columbus College to host visiting scholars from Latin America, and she supported scholarships for students who were studying abroad. In 1989 she founded the Atlanta-based Latin American Association's annual black-tie fund-raising event, Latin Fever. She was also active in the commemoration of the Christopher Columbus quincentennial in 1992, commissioning a memorial statue that stands along the Chattahoochee Riverwalk in Columbus.
After her husband's death in 1990, Amos became increasingly involved in anti-Castro advocacy and humanitarian causes involving Cuba. She served as a director of the Cuban American Foundation of Miami and the Valladares Foundation, a human rights organization. In 1992 she financed the illegal flight of Major Orestes Lorenzo Perez, a Cuban exile, to Havana to rescue his wife and children. She also assisted Alina Fernandez Revuelta, one of Fidel Castro's daughters, in fleeing Cuba, and Revuelta and her daughter lived with Amos for several years in Columbus.
Amos died on May 3, 2000, of complications from a stroke. The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer eulogized her as "an angel to many in [the] community." This tradition of service continues through the John Beverly Amos and Elena Diaz-Verson Amos Foundation, which continues to support educational, cultural, and humanitarian causes in Georgia and beyond. In 2003 the University of Miami dedicated its Roberto C. Goizueta Pavilion, which houses the university library's Cuban Heritage Collection. Financed in part by Amos and by the Atlanta-based Goizueta Foundation, the building houses a conference room named in her honor.