An Abridged History of ACA

Celebrating ACA International's history and 80th anniversary year.

12/18/2019 8:00 AM

NewsCollector Magazine
An Abridged History of ACA

As ACA International concludes its 80th anniversary year, we’re taking stock of where we’ve come from, each piece of our history informing how we can be even better in the years ahead.

Collector magazine editor Anne Rosso May provides highlights of ACA’s history in the January 2019 feature article “An Abridged History of ACA.”

ACA’s story starts in the early 1920s, when a few state-based accounts receivable management associations in California, Oregon and Washington formed, uniting members of a previously disconnected industry. An umbrella group, the Pacific Coast Association of Collection Agencies, was established in 1924.

Then in 1929, America entered into the Great Depression, the longest U.S. economic downturn of the 20th century. While recovering unpaid debts has always been part of running a business, these efforts became vitally important during the Depression, when creditors already had to significantly cut back on goods and services to stay afloat.

The groups of collection professionals that had formed on the West Coast fought for state legislation and established communities of collectors for both business and social activities, and it didn’t take long for members to consider starting a national association that would provide even more of a united front for collection professionals across the country.

Following is an excerpt from the article focusing on decades of accomplishments by ACA and its members. Read the complete feature in the January issue of Collector magazine.

1939-1949 – 10th Anniversary

In June 1939, at a joint convention of the Pacific Coast Association of Collection Agencies and California Association of Collectors, held in Oakland, Calif., ACA is launched with 273 members. Then known as the American Collectors Association, its stated mission is to promote ethics, enforce proper conduct, coordinate state and local associations, encourage industry-favorable legislation and distribute information to help members succeed. CAC gifts ACA with its established and respected Collector magazine, including the publication’s mailing list and equipment. Throughout the 1940s, ACA pushes a bill in Congress to allow garnishment of federal employees’ wages, an effort that ultimately wouldn’t be resolved until the 1990s.

New state units form each year, and by the association’s 10th birthday, every state is represented by an ACA unit or individual member.

1949-1959 – 20th Anniversary

Following the new American post-war ideal of bigger and better, ACA establishes an ambitious blueprint for its future. The five-year plan, known as “Operation Progress,” contemplates membership advances through education and public affairs, and directs ACA to establish an education program to teach members new ways of doing business. In 1952, the first woman to hold national office in ACA, Thelma Ray Osborne of San Francisco, is elected treasurer. After one year, however, she steps down rather than progress through the leadership chairs. It isn’t until 1991 that ACA installs its first female president, Linda Russell from Rawlins, Wyo.

ACA builds a new headquarters in the Minneapolis suburb of Edina. In 1956, ACA’s Executive Secretary Glenn Sanberg resigns and his former assistant, John W. Johnson, is appointed executive secretary—the beginning of Johnson’s decades-long career at ACA.

1959-1969 – 30th Anniversary

ACA builds an addition to its headquarters in Minneapolis, which triples the amount of space for the growing organization. ACA officers vote to form a new for-profit corporation,

American Collectors Association Enterprises Inc., which would be wholly owned by ACA. ACA celebrates its 25th anniversary at its 1964 convention in New York City. The event coincides with a record heat wave, but attendees are still able to enjoy the sights and sounds of the Big Apple, in addition to numerous ACA anniversary celebrations. A few years later, ACA Enterprises jumps into the computer business with the launch of Data Systemaca, introducing members to the benefits of computerized data processing. ACA also hires a full-time government relations manager and retains its first lobbyist in Washington, D.C.

1969-1979 – 40th Anniversary

ACA moves into a new headquarters at 4040 W. 70th St. in Edina, Minn., which is still its current home. ACA becomes aware of several preliminary federal law drafts written by Rep. Frank Annunzio, D. Ill., that would regulate debt collection activities. The bill touches off a years-long discussion among ACA members, who hold differing opinions on the federal legislation. After an intense debate, the ACA Board of Directors comes to a majority vote that the association favors the bill. For the first time, ACA is on record as supporting the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

But the bill is not perfect, and ACA gets involved in discussions to remove objectionable sections and reword others. Eventually it’s improved to the absolute limit and passed into law on Sept. 8, 1977. ACA moves to quickly educate its members on the content of the new law.

1989 – 50th Anniversary

The rising expense of running Data Systemaca reaches the point where it is operating in the red, even though a growing number of members are signing on. ACA conducts FDCPA seminars across the country and aggressively promotes its FDCPA compliance manual. The association also launches an effort to amend the FDCPA to require any attorney who collects debts on behalf of a client to follow its provisions. Despite opposition from the American Bar Association and Commercial Law League of America, ACA members’ grassroots efforts prevail and the bill passes in 1986. ACA celebrates its 50th anniversary at its annual convention in Minneapolis. A record number of past presidents and charter members gather to celebrate ACA’s past and discuss the future. Attendees get their first look at ACA’s new computer-based training program, which allows members to learn about telephone collection techniques and the FDCPA through their computers.

ACA is looking ahead to an exciting 2020. Check ACA's website for updates on what's to come as well as our events calendar for education and networking opportunities. #HelpingMembersSucceed.


Follow ACA International on Twitter @ACAIntl and @acacollector, Facebook and request to join our LinkedIn group for news and event updates. ACA International members are welcome to submit news items for possible publication to comm@acainternational.org. Visit our publications page for news submission guidelines and subscriptions to ACA Daily, Collector magazine and Pulse.

Advertising is available for companies wishing to promote their products or services. Be sure to visit the ACA Events Calendar on the Education and Training page to view our listing of upcoming CORE Curriculum and Hot Topic seminars featuring critical educational opportunities for your company.


Subscribe to ACA Daily NEWSROOM

An Abridged History of ACA

As ACA International concludes its 80th anniversary year, we’re taking stock of where we’ve come from, each piece of our history informing how we can be even better in the years ahead.

Collector magazine editor Anne Rosso May provides highlights of ACA’s history in the January 2019 feature article “An Abridged History of ACA.”

ACA’s story starts in the early 1920s, when a few state-based accounts receivable management associations in California, Oregon and Washington formed, uniting members of a previously disconnected industry. An umbrella group, the Pacific Coast Association of Collection Agencies, was established in 1924.

Then in 1929, America entered into the Great Depression, the longest U.S. economic downturn of the 20th century. While recovering unpaid debts has always been part of running a business, these efforts became vitally important during the Depression, when creditors already had to significantly cut back on goods and services to stay afloat.

The groups of collection professionals that had formed on the West Coast fought for state legislation and established communities of collectors for both business and social activities, and it didn’t take long for members to consider starting a national association that would provide even more of a united front for collection professionals across the country.

Following is an excerpt from the article focusing on decades of accomplishments by ACA and its members. Read the complete feature in the January issue of Collector magazine.

1939-1949 – 10th Anniversary

In June 1939, at a joint convention of the Pacific Coast Association of Collection Agencies and California Association of Collectors, held in Oakland, Calif., ACA is launched with 273 members. Then known as the American Collectors Association, its stated mission is to promote ethics, enforce proper conduct, coordinate state and local associations, encourage industry-favorable legislation and distribute information to help members succeed. CAC gifts ACA with its established and respected Collector magazine, including the publication’s mailing list and equipment. Throughout the 1940s, ACA pushes a bill in Congress to allow garnishment of federal employees’ wages, an effort that ultimately wouldn’t be resolved until the 1990s.

New state units form each year, and by the association’s 10th birthday, every state is represented by an ACA unit or individual member.

1949-1959 – 20th Anniversary

Following the new American post-war ideal of bigger and better, ACA establishes an ambitious blueprint for its future. The five-year plan, known as “Operation Progress,” contemplates membership advances through education and public affairs, and directs ACA to establish an education program to teach members new ways of doing business. In 1952, the first woman to hold national office in ACA, Thelma Ray Osborne of San Francisco, is elected treasurer. After one year, however, she steps down rather than progress through the leadership chairs. It isn’t until 1991 that ACA installs its first female president, Linda Russell from Rawlins, Wyo.

ACA builds a new headquarters in the Minneapolis suburb of Edina. In 1956, ACA’s Executive Secretary Glenn Sanberg resigns and his former assistant, John W. Johnson, is appointed executive secretary—the beginning of Johnson’s decades-long career at ACA.

1959-1969 – 30th Anniversary

ACA builds an addition to its headquarters in Minneapolis, which triples the amount of space for the growing organization. ACA officers vote to form a new for-profit corporation,

American Collectors Association Enterprises Inc., which would be wholly owned by ACA. ACA celebrates its 25th anniversary at its 1964 convention in New York City. The event coincides with a record heat wave, but attendees are still able to enjoy the sights and sounds of the Big Apple, in addition to numerous ACA anniversary celebrations. A few years later, ACA Enterprises jumps into the computer business with the launch of Data Systemaca, introducing members to the benefits of computerized data processing. ACA also hires a full-time government relations manager and retains its first lobbyist in Washington, D.C.

1969-1979 – 40th Anniversary

ACA moves into a new headquarters at 4040 W. 70th St. in Edina, Minn., which is still its current home. ACA becomes aware of several preliminary federal law drafts written by Rep. Frank Annunzio, D. Ill., that would regulate debt collection activities. The bill touches off a years-long discussion among ACA members, who hold differing opinions on the federal legislation. After an intense debate, the ACA Board of Directors comes to a majority vote that the association favors the bill. For the first time, ACA is on record as supporting the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

But the bill is not perfect, and ACA gets involved in discussions to remove objectionable sections and reword others. Eventually it’s improved to the absolute limit and passed into law on Sept. 8, 1977. ACA moves to quickly educate its members on the content of the new law.

1989 – 50th Anniversary

The rising expense of running Data Systemaca reaches the point where it is operating in the red, even though a growing number of members are signing on. ACA conducts FDCPA seminars across the country and aggressively promotes its FDCPA compliance manual. The association also launches an effort to amend the FDCPA to require any attorney who collects debts on behalf of a client to follow its provisions. Despite opposition from the American Bar Association and Commercial Law League of America, ACA members’ grassroots efforts prevail and the bill passes in 1986. ACA celebrates its 50th anniversary at its annual convention in Minneapolis. A record number of past presidents and charter members gather to celebrate ACA’s past and discuss the future. Attendees get their first look at ACA’s new computer-based training program, which allows members to learn about telephone collection techniques and the FDCPA through their computers.

ACA is looking ahead to an exciting 2020. Check ACA's website for updates on what's to come as well as our events calendar for education and networking opportunities. #HelpingMembersSucceed.


Follow ACA International on Twitter @ACAIntl and @acacollector, Facebook and request to join our LinkedIn group for news and event updates. ACA International members are welcome to submit news items for possible publication to comm@acainternational.org. Visit our publications page for news submission guidelines and subscriptions to ACA Daily, Collector magazine and Pulse.

Advertising is available for companies wishing to promote their products or services. Be sure to visit the ACA Events Calendar on the Education and Training page to view our listing of upcoming CORE Curriculum and Hot Topic seminars featuring critical educational opportunities for your company.


Subscribe to ACA Daily NEWSROOM

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