About the Founders

Indelible Mark
  • The Bloch FamilyThe Bloch Family
  • Marion and Henry BlochMarion and Henry Bloch
  • Marion & Henry BlochMarion & Henry Bloch
  • The Bloch FamilyThe Bloch Family
  • Marion & Henry BlochMarion & Henry Bloch
  • Marion and Henry BlochMarion and Henry Bloch
  • Henry & Marion BlochHenry & Marion Bloch
  • Marion & Henry BlochMarion & Henry Bloch
  • Marion and Henry BlochMarion and Henry Bloch
  • Marion & Henry BlochMarion & Henry Bloch
  • Marion & Henry BlochMarion & Henry Bloch
  • Marion & Henry BlochMarion & Henry Bloch
Marion and Henry Bloch

A love affair…an industry…a legacy

Marion and Henry Bloch are lifelong residents of Kansas City. They were raised in a middle-income neighborhood less than a mile from each other. The couple attended the same public high school, and their families were members of the same Jewish temple. Marion’s oldest brother and Henry were childhood friends. But considering that Marion was eight years’ Henry’s junior, they hardly knew each other while growing up.

That all changed in 1950 when Marion’s brother was to be married. He asked Henry to escort his beautiful, redheaded sister to his engagement parties. At the time, Marion was a junior at the University of Missouri. Henry, a University of Michigan graduate and a decorated World War II hero who navigated 31 combat missions over Germany in B-17 bomber, was now a budding entrepreneur back in his hometown.

Suddenly Henry had an interest more important than his United Business Company, the fledgling bookkeeping start-up he launched with his brother in 1947, aimed at serving the smallest of small business. Following Marion’s graduation in 1951, the 28- and 20-year-olds were married, even though Henry was barely eking out a living.

The couple had four children during the 1950s – Robert, Thomas, Mary Jo and Elizabeth. Out of necessity, the young Bloch family was thrifty. When Henry finally splurged on a second car, he bought Marion a used Studebaker for $50. Nonetheless, it was a marriage made in heaven. As one of the couple’s oldest and closest friends puts it, “It is one of a kind. Nothing is missing.”

For eight long years, Henry and his younger brother Dick, who teamed up with Henry not long after their older brother Leon left the business to attend law school, fought to make their bookkeeping venture profitable. “It was a terrible business,” Henry explains. “We would get one new client and then we would lose one. Some of our accounts struggled to keep their doors open from one month to the next. And they couldn’t always pay what they owed us.”

To supplement their income, the entrepreneurial brothers prepared individual income tax returns during the tax season for their friends and other non-bookkeeping clients. The Blochs charged $5 for a federal and state return. Word quickly spread, and by 1954 they were preparing 160 returns, netting them about $500 apiece. But they were dog-tired, working seven days and five nights a week. While Marion was delivering their second child the day before the tax deadline, Henry was transforming the hospital waiting room into a makeshift office to finish up returns.

Concerned that they were not devoting enough time to their bookkeeping clients, the brothers decided at the end of 1954 to quit doing taxes on the side. As the next tax season rolled around, Henry and Dick explained to their former tax clients that they had gone out of that business. “But who will prepare my return?” the discontented taxpayers always asked. The brothers didn’t have a good answer.

Among their most disappointed tax clients was John White, a display-advertising salesman for The Kansas City Star.  Unlike other taxpayers who were rejected by the Blochs, White didn’t leave the office wondering who would handle his taxes. Instead, he was contemplating how to convince Henry and Dick to stay in the tax business.

Days later, White returned with sample newspaper ads for tax preparation. Reluctantly, the brothers agreed to run two ads for a total cost of $200, hoping for the best but fearing the worst. The morning after the first ad ran, their small, second-story office was jam-packed with people. Henry and Dick had hit the jackpot. It was the birth of the commercial tax preparation industry.

While preparing expansion plans, the Blochs received a letter from a New York City lawyer on behalf of a Massachusetts firm with a similar name, United Business Service. To avoid any confusion, the lawyer demanded that the Blochs stop using the name United Business Company. Instead of tangling with the Massachusetts outfit, the brothers decided to call their new tax business H&R Block, deliberately misspelling their last name to avoid pronunciation errors.

In the fall of 1955, the young Bloch family packed their bags for New York City, where Henry opened seven H&R Block offices. The new outlets were successful, but the family was anxious to return to their midwestern roots. After tax season, the brothers sold the New York operation for $10,000 and 2% of future revenues. “It turns out we were among the pioneers of franchising,” Henry says. “But at that time, we had never heard the term.”

Two years later, with seventeen offices in three states, the Blochs proudly rolled out the slogan, “Nation’s Largest Income Tax Service.” Over the course of more than fifty years, H&R Block grew to become the largest commercial tax preparation firm in the world, with a vast web of more than 10,000 retail locations and 100,000 tax professionals. Henry retired as CEO of the company in 1992 and as Chairman in 2000.

Woven into Marion and Henry’s rich history are shining examples of philanthropy in Kansas City – at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the Henry W. Bloch School of Management at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and St. Luke’s Hospital, to name a few. Through their countless charitable efforts, the Blochs have enriched the lives of many and helped transform their hometown.

In 2011, the couple established the Marion and Henry Bloch Family Foundation to continue their philanthropic legacy.  The Foundation builds on their vision and values to improve the quality of life in Greater Kansas City through thoughtful, innovative and responsible philanthropy.

To learn more about the remarkable lives of Marion and Henry Bloch, read “Many Happy Returns: The Story of Henry Bloch, America’s Tax Man” by Thomas M. Bloch.