In Memoriam: Robert Waltrip, SCI founder — Services today





Robert L. Waltrip, age 92, founder of death care company Service Corporation International, died on Monday, February 27, 2023.  A Celebration of Life service is scheduled for today (March 2).  Interment is scheduled in the Reflection Garden of Memorial Oaks Cemetery in Houston, Texas.


You can access an obituary powered by here.


Funeral Director Daily take:  Robert L. Waltrip is the legendary founder of Service Corporation International (SCI).  According to the SCI website they (SCI) own,  operate, and serve death care consumers through over 1,900 facilities located in 44 states, 8 Canadian provinces, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.  Again, according to the SCI website, the company serves over 450,000 families each year.


Robert L. Waltrip is, in my opinion, probably the greatest single influence on Death Care in the last half of the 20th Century.  A 3rd generation funeral director he envisioned a funeral home business that would have multiple locations.  According to his obituary, he acquired two additional funeral homes in Houston in the late 1950’s and then continued to branch out from that base.  He founded Service Corporation International to serve as his growth vehicle in 1962 and in 1969 he brought the company public.


There is no doubt that his growth through acquisition modus operandi has spawned dozens, or maybe hundreds, of operators who have followed his pathway to growth.  You can see that trail and business system that was followed by many of the national, regional, and city-wide operations of today’s death care businesses.


Funeral directors across the United States over the past 50 years have seemed to have a difference of opinions over the profession being owned by consolidators.  On one hand, Waltrip and his SCI system were able to offer higher buy-out offers to certain funeral homes that made it more difficult for local funeral homes to acquire and grow.  On the other hand, those purchases allowed many generational family funeral homes to eventually “cash-out” at higher values than they ever thought they would receive.  Waltrip’s method of operating also showed those that wanted to grow a pathway to do so.


Today SCI is a huge death care company- by far the largest in North America.  In 2022 they did over $4 billion worth of death care business through their affiliated enterprises.  The next largest United States public death care company does less than 1/10th of that financial volume.  And, in a country where it is estimated that there are over 19,000 funeral homes (Funeral Director Daily statistics article), it is also believed that SCI and its affiliates handle almost 1 in 10 deaths nationwide.


There is no doubt that Robert L. Waltrip was a visionary and giant in this business.  May God bless his memory.


RelatedRobert L. Waltrip obituary from George S. Lewis & Sons Funeral Home

RelatedThis history of Service Corporation International from the SCI website

Related —  SCI funeral home brands as listed on the SCI Website


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