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  Our History: 1953 - 1978

The Next Twenty-Five Years
By Harold F. McLeran
The history of the first 50 years of the Iowa Title Association (now called the Iowa Land Title Association) was ably related by Varick C. Crosley, one of the founders of the Iowa Land Title Association and the American Land Title Association. The compelling force for organization was the promotion of the Torrens System for land registration. The history of the next twenty-five years shows that the problems of the first 50 years are still with us, and in some regards are an even greater threat because of the influence of the Federal Government.

The last attempt at a licensing law is now past history, and was lost in the 54th G.A. in 1951. By that time the Legislature had become opposed to all licensing bills. Also we failed to obtain the solid support of the lawyers who felt that such a bill would seal in abstracters who were giving poor service, and would also exclude lawyers.

The valuation system for charges was promoted by Jackson Hospers (President 1954-1955) and became widely used not only in Iowa but also throughout the U.S.

Jesse E. Marshall, attorney of Sioux City, promoted a strong influence in strengthening land titles in Iowa. He was instrumental in educating the lawyers of Iowa in accepting curative statutes rather than "flyspecking". He served for many years as Chairman of the Iowa Bar Title Standards Committee, and his book "Iowa Title Opinions and Standards" became the bible of land conveyance. On May 14, 1957, he was named an Associate Member of the Iowa Title Association. The opinions of his committee have been regularly reported in the Iowa Land Title News. The Board meeting of February 15, 1958, approved two items, which have become a strong influence in the Iowa Land Title Association. One was the appointment of a committee to draft patterns in order to promote statewide uniform abstracting. The other was to promote a course in abstracting instruments, which were to be presented to the members of the regional meeting workshops.

On May 6, 1963, the Abstracting Standards Committee published their first book containing standards. It was called "Abstracting Standards of the Iowa Land Title Association" prepared in cooperation with the Title Standards Committee of the Iowa State Bar Association. The comment of the committee in the Preface recites "The work of the committee is not complete - probably never will be." The attempt of the committee was to eliminate bulk in abstracting. Members of the first Standards Committee were Virgil Shepard, Chairman; Alien K. Buchanan, Secretary; Gilbert Caldwell, Robert Just, Merle Peterson. The Regional meeting workshops have been continued and have been expanded into what has been called Iowa Land Title School of Instruction. At the same meeting the Board discussed the Association's part in the ATA's Seattle convention to be held September 21-25, 1958, in recognition of Harold F. McLeran's office as President of the ATA. It was proposed to charter a plane or a Pullman car for the trip. Also to furnish roasting ears, hat banners or paper hats for the clambake. This was the third time the Iowa Association had been honored by having a National President, the first President being E.J. Carroll of Davenport, and the second President being Earl Glasson of Waterloo, both now deceased.

The Lawyers Title Guarantee Fund came up for discussion in the Board meeting December 2, 1961. On May 6, 1963, Tim Campbell, Chairman of the Committee on cooperation, reported that his committee met with a committee from the Iowa Bar Association and that it was the conclusion that no action would be taken unless some unfavorable legislation should be proposed.

The Board, at its November 10, 1969 meeting, took the position that the association should oppose the legalizing of Title Insurance in Iowa in the hearings before the Insurance Commissioner, in view of the request from the Iowa Bar Association for the Association so to do. Also that the Association should oppose title insurance in the Legislature. On May 29, 1972, the Chicago Title Insurance Company filed with the Insurance Commissioner of the State of Iowa, its application for authority to operate as an insurer of real estate titles in the state of Iowa.

On August 8th this application was denied because the statute prohibited the writing of title insurance. The Chicago Title Insurance Company filed its petition in Polk County District Court seeking injunctive relief stating that it was denied the right to do business in the State of Iowa without due process of law. The Iowa State Bar Association and the Iowa Land Title Association intervened. The case was tried to the Court. The Court subsequently found against Chicago Title Insurance Company and appeal was taken to the Iowa Supreme Court. On June 29, 1977, the Iowa Supreme Court affirmed the lower Court's decision in the case entitled Chicago Title Insurance Co. vs. Huff insurance commissioner, cited as 256 NW 2nd 17. The result is that Iowa is still the only state in the union legally prohibiting the writing of title insurance in the State of Iowa. The Torrens System of land registration has come back into the picture again, and hearings have been held by federal agencies without any definite conclusions.

Indian claims are plaguing the title industry. No claims have been filed in Iowa except for some cases along the western border along the Missouri River.

Many mechanical changes have been made during the last 25 years for land registration, the latest being considered being the computer system.

Perhaps the most important legislative change has been the 40-year Marketable Title Statute passed by the legislature in 1971. This will undoubtedly give rise to the question as to the necessity for having a complete set of books for membership in the Iowa Land Title Association. During the 25 years the Association has benefited from the work of many fine secretaries. Al Buchanan took over the office April 17,1963, and has continued to date, subject to his recent resignation. He served not only as Secretary-Treasurer but also as editor of the Iowa Land Title News, an outstanding publication. The next 25 years will probably see much pressure on the title industry for changes in land registration if the socialization of our society continues by
the federal government.