Sam Walton

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Sam Walton
Walton, as he appears in David H. Hickman High School's yearbook
Samuel Moore Walton

(1918-03-29)March 29, 1918
DiedApril 5, 1992(1992-04-05) (aged 74)
Alma mater University of Missouri 1940
Occupation Founder of Walmart and Sam's Club
Net worth US$8.6 billion (at the time of death) [1]
Helen Robson
(m. 1943;his death 1992)

Samuel Moore Walton (March 29, 1918 – April 5, 1992) was an American businessman and entrepreneur best known for founding the retailers Walmart and Sam's Club. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. grew to be the world's largest corporation by revenue as well as the biggest private employer in the world. [2] At one point in his life, he was the richest man in America.

Walmart U.S. discount retailer based in Arkansas

Walmart Inc. is an American multinational retail corporation that operates a chain of hypermarkets, discount department stores, and grocery stores. Headquartered in Bentonville, Arkansas, the company was founded by Sam Walton in 1962 and incorporated on October 31, 1969. It also owns and operates Sam's Club retail warehouses. As of April 30, 2019, Walmart has 11,368 stores and clubs in 27 countries, operating under 55 different names. The company operates under the name Walmart in the United States and Canada, as Walmart de México y Centroamérica in Mexico and Central America, as Asda in the United Kingdom, as the Seiyu Group in Japan, and as Best Price in India. It has wholly owned operations in Argentina, Chile, Canada, and South Africa. Since August 2018, Walmart only holds a minority stake in Walmart Brasil, with 20% of the company's shares, and private equity firm Advent International holding 80% ownership of the company.

Sams Club American chain of membership-only retail warehouse clubs

Sam's West, Inc. is an American chain of membership-only retail warehouse clubs owned and operated by Walmart Inc., founded in 1983 and named after Walmart founder Sam Walton. As of 2012, Sam's Club chain serves 47 million U.S. members and is the 8th largest U.S. retailer. As of January 31, 2019, Sam's Club ranks second in sales volume among warehouse clubs with $57.839 billion in sales behind rival Costco Wholesale.


Early life

Samuel Moore Walton was born to Thomas Gibson Walton and Nancy Lee, in Kingfisher, Oklahoma. He lived there with his parents on their farm until 1923. However, farming did not provide enough money to raise a family, and Thomas Walton went into farm mortgaging. He worked for his brother's Walton Mortgage Company, which was an agent for Metropolitan Life Insurance, [3] [4] where he foreclosed on farms during the Great Depression. [5]

Kingfisher, Oklahoma City in Oklahoma, United States

Kingfisher is a city in and the county seat of Kingfisher County, Oklahoma, United States. The population was 4,633 at the 2010 census, up from 4,380 at the 2000 census. It is the former home and namesake of Kingfisher College. According to the Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, Kingfisher is now primarily a bedroom community for people employed in Enid and Oklahoma City.

Foreclosure legal process in which a lender attempts to recover the balance of a loan from a borrower

Foreclosure is a legal process in which a lender attempts to recover the balance of a loan from a borrower who has stopped making payments to the lender by forcing the sale of the asset used as the collateral for the loan.

Great Depression 20th-century worldwide economic depression

The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression that took place mostly during the 1930s, beginning in the United States. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations; in most countries it started in 1929 and lasted until the late-1930s. It was the longest, deepest, and most widespread depression of the 20th century. In the 21st century, the Great Depression is commonly used as an example of how intensely the world's economy can decline.

He and his family (now with another son, James, born in 1921) moved from Oklahoma. They moved from one small town to another for several years, mostly in Missouri. While attending eighth grade in Shelbina, Missouri, Sam became the youngest Eagle Scout in the state's history. [6] In adult life, Walton became a recipient of the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award from the Boy Scouts of America. [7]

Oklahoma State of the United States of America

Oklahoma is a state in the South Central region of the United States, bordered by Kansas on the north, Missouri on the northeast, Arkansas on the east, Texas on the south, New Mexico on the west, and Colorado on the northwest. It is the 20th-most extensive and the 28th-most populous of the fifty United States. The state's name is derived from the Choctaw words okla and humma, meaning "red people". It is also known informally by its nickname, "The Sooner State", in reference to the non-Native settlers who staked their claims on land before the official opening date of lands in the western Oklahoma Territory or before the Indian Appropriations Act of 1889, which dramatically increased European-American settlement in the eastern Indian Territory. Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory were merged into the State of Oklahoma when it became the 46th state to enter the union on November 16, 1907. Its residents are known as Oklahomans, and its capital and largest city is Oklahoma City.

Shelbina, Missouri City in Missouri, United States

Shelbina is a city in Shelby County, Missouri, United States. The population was 1,704 at the 2010 census.

Eagle Scout (Boy Scouts of America) Boy Scoutings highest award

Eagle Scout is the highest achievement or rank attainable in the Scouts BSA program of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). Since its inception in 1911, only four percent of Scouts have earned this rank after a lengthy review process. The Eagle Scout rank has been earned by over 2.5 million youth.

Eventually the family moved to Columbia, Missouri. Growing up during the Great Depression, he did chores to help make financial ends meet for his family as was common at the time. He milked the family cow, bottled the surplus, and drove it to customers. Afterwards, he would deliver Columbia Daily Tribune newspapers on a paper route. In addition, he sold magazine subscriptions. [8] Upon graduating from David H. Hickman High School in Columbia, he was voted "Most Versatile Boy".

Columbia, Missouri College town in the U.S state of Missouri

Columbia is a city in the U.S. state of Missouri. It is the county seat of Boone County and home to the University of Missouri. Founded in 1821, it is the principal city of the five-county Columbia metropolitan area. It is Missouri's fourth most-populous and fastest growing city, with an estimated 121,717 residents in 2017.

<i>Columbia Daily Tribune</i> newspaper in Columbia, Missouri

The Columbia Daily Tribune, commonly referred to as the Columbia Tribune or the Tribune, is one of two daily newspapers in Columbia, Missouri, the other being the Columbia Missourian. It is also the only daily newspaper in Columbia with circulation verified by the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC), and it has been a member of that since 1915. It was owned by the Watson/Waters family from 1905 to 2016.

David H. Hickman High School

David Henry Hickman High School is a public secondary school in Columbia, Missouri, United States, serving students in grades 9–12. The school is the oldest of four high schools in the Columbia Public Schools. with admission based primarily on the locations of students' homes. Hickman is one of the largest high schools in Missouri and has perennially strong academic, athletic and arts programs.

After high school, Walton decided to attend college, hoping to find a better way to help support his family. He attended the University of Missouri as an ROTC cadet. During this time, he worked various odd jobs, including waiting tables in exchange for meals. Also during his time in college, Walton joined the Zeta Phi chapter of Beta Theta Pi fraternity. He was also tapped by QEBH, the well-known secret society on campus honoring the top senior men, and the national military honor society Scabbard and Blade. Additionally, Walton served as president of Burall Bible Class, a large class of students from the University of Missouri and Stephens College. [9] Upon graduating in 1940 with a bachelor's degree in economics, he was voted "permanent president" of the class. [10]

University of Missouri American public state university

The University of Missouri is a public, land-grant research university in Columbia, Missouri. It was founded in 1839 as the first public institution of higher education west of the Mississippi River. The state's largest university, it enrolled 30,870 students in 2017 and offered over 300 degree programs in 21 academic divisions. It is the flagship campus of the University of Missouri System, which also has campuses in Kansas City, Rolla, and St. Louis. There are more than 300,000 MU alumni living worldwide with over one half residing in Missouri.

Zeta Phi

The Zeta Phi Society (ΖΦ) was a fraternal organization founded at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri in 1870. The society became a chapter of Beta Theta Pi in 1890. It is the oldest fraternity in continuous existence at the University and the first fraternity founded west of the Mississippi River.

Beta Theta Pi college social fraternity

Beta Theta Pi (ΒΘΠ), commonly known as Beta, is a North American social fraternity that was founded in 1839 at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. One of North America's oldest fraternities, it currently consists of 116 active chapters and 22 colonies in the United States and Canada. More than 300,000 members have been initiated worldwide and there are currently around 11,000 undergraduate members. Beta Theta Pi is the oldest of the three fraternities that formed the Miami Triad, along with Phi Delta Theta and Sigma Chi.

Furthermore, he elaborated that he learned from a very early age that it was important for them as kids to help provide for the home, to be contributors rather than just takers. In the process, of course, we learned how much hard work it took to get your hands on a dollar. Ever since high school, he had made all his own money and paid for all his own clothes. Walton has realized while serving in army that he wanted to go into retailing, he also knew he wanted to go into business for himself. [11]

Walton joined J. C. Penney as a management trainee in Des Moines, Iowa, [10] three days after graduating from college. [8] This position paid him $75 a month. Walton spent approximately 18 months with J. C. Penney. [12] He resigned in 1942 in anticipation of being inducted into the military for service in World War II. [8] In the meantime, he worked at a DuPont munitions plant near Tulsa, Oklahoma. Soon afterwards, Walton joined the military in the U.S. Army Intelligence Corps, supervising security at aircraft plants and prisoner of war camps. In this position he served at Fort Douglas in Salt Lake City, Utah. He eventually reached the rank of captain.

The first stores

In 1945, after leaving the military, Walton took over management of his first variety store at the age of 26. With the help of a $20,000 loan from his father-in-law, plus $5,000 he had saved from his time in the Army, Walton purchased a Ben Franklin variety store in Newport, Arkansas. [8] The store was a franchise of the Butler Brothers chain.

Walton pioneered many concepts that became crucial to his success. According to Walton, if he offered prices as good or better than stores in cities that were four hours away by car, people would shop at home. [13] Walton made sure the shelves were consistently stocked with a wide range of goods. His second store, the tiny "Eagle" department store, was down the street from his first Ben Franklin and next door to its main competitor in Newport.

With the sales volume growing from $80,000 to $225,000 in three years, Walton drew the attention of the landlord, P. K. Holmes, whose family had a history in retail. [14] Admiring Sam's great success, and desiring to reclaim the store (and franchise rights) for his son, he refused to renew the lease. The lack of a renewal option, together with the prohibitively high rent of 5% of sales, were early business lessons to Walton. Despite forcing Walton out, Holmes bought the store's inventory and fixtures for $50,000, which Walton called "a fair price". [15]

Walton's Five and Dime, now the Walmart Visitors Center, Bentonville. Walton's Five and Dime store, Bentonville, Arkansas.jpg
Walton's Five and Dime, now the Walmart Visitors Center, Bentonville.

With a year left on the lease, but the store effectively sold, he, his wife Helen and his father-in-law managed to negotiate the purchase of a new location on the downtown square of Bentonville, Arkansas. Walton negotiated the purchase of a small discount store, and the title to the building, on the condition that he get a 99-year lease to expand into the shop next door. The owner of the shop next door refused six times, and Walton gave up on Bentonville when his father-in-law, without Sam's knowledge, paid the shop owner a final visit and $20,000 to secure the lease. He had just enough left from the sale of the first store to close the deal, and reimburse Helen's father. They opened for business with a one-day remodeling sale on May 9, 1950. [14]

Before he bought the Bentonville store, it was doing $72,000 in sales and it increased to $105,000 in the first year and then $140,000 and $175,000. [16]

A chain of Ben Franklin stores

With the new Bentonville "Five and Dime" opening for business, and 220 miles away, a year left on the lease in Newport, the money-strapped young Walton had to learn to delegate responsibility. [17] [18]

After succeeding with two stores at such a distance (and with the postwar baby boom in full effect), Sam became enthusiastic about scouting more locations and opening more Ben Franklin franchises. (Also, having spent countless hours behind the wheel, and with his close brother James "Bud" Walton having been a pilot in the war, he decided to buy a small second-hand airplane. Both he and his son John would later become accomplished pilots and log thousands of hours scouting locations and expanding the family business.) [17]

In 1954, he opened a store with his brother Bud in a shopping center in Ruskin Heights, a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri. With the help of his brother and father-in-law, Sam went on to open many new variety stores. He encouraged his managers to invest and take an equity stake in the business, often as much as $1000 in their store, or the next outlet to open. (This motivated the managers to sharpen their managerial skills and take ownership over their role in the enterprise.) [17] By 1962, along with his brother Bud, he owned 16 stores in Arkansas, Missouri, and Kansas (fifteen Ben Franklin's and one independent, in Fayetteville). [19]

Sam Walton is regarded as one of the greatest project entrepreneurs in the retail chain industry. He had a great passion for learning. He frequently made unannounced visits to Walmarts around the country to learn what local innovations were working that then could be shared with other Walmarts. On one of those visits he was puzzled by a greeter saying “hello” at the entrance of the store and asked the fellow what he was doing. The greeter explained that his main job was to discourage shoplifters from taking unpaid merchandise out of the store through the entrance. Walton was delighted and shared the innovation with “associates” throughout his chain. [20]

First Walmart

The first true Walmart opened on July 2, 1962, in Rogers, Arkansas. [21] Called the Wal-Mart Discount City store, it was located at 719 West Walnut Street. He launched a determined effort to market American-made products. Included in the effort was a willingness to find American manufacturers who could supply merchandise for the entire Walmart chain at a price low enough to meet the foreign competition. [22]

As the Meijer store chain grew, it caught the attention of Walton. He came to acknowledge that his one-stop-shopping center format was based on Meijer’s original innovative concept. [23] Contrary to the prevailing practice of American discount store chains, Walton located stores in smaller towns, not larger cities. To be near consumers, the only option at the time was to open outlets in small towns. Walton's model offered two advantages. First, existing competition was limited and secondly, if a store was large enough to control business in a town and its surrounding areas, other merchants would be discouraged from entering the market. [13]

To make his model work, he emphasized logistics, particularly locating stores within a day's drive of Walmart's regional warehouses, and distributed through its own trucking service. Buying in volume and efficient delivery permitted sale of discounted name brand merchandise. Thus, sustained growth from 1977's 190 stores to 1985's 800 was achieved. [10]

Personal life

Walton married Helen Robson on February 14, 1943. [8] They had four children: Samuel Robson (Rob) born in 1944, John Thomas (1946–2005), James Carr (Jim) born in 1948, and Alice Louise born in 1949. [24] Walton supported various charitable causes. He and Helen were active in the First Presbyterian Church of Bentonville; [25] Sam served as an Elder and a Sunday School teacher, teaching high school age students. [26] The family made substantial contributions to the congregation.


Walton died on Sunday, April 5, 1992, of multiple myeloma, a type of bone cancer, [27] in Little Rock, Arkansas. [28] The news of his death was relayed by satellite to all 1,960 Walmart stores. [29] At the time, his company employed 380,000 people. Annual sales of nearly $50 billion flowed from 1,735 Walmarts, 212 Sam’s Clubs, and 13 Supercenters. [10]

His remains are interred at the Bentonville Cemetery. He left his ownership in Walmart to his wife and their children: Rob Walton succeeded his father as the Chairman of Walmart, and John Walton was a director until his death in a 2005 plane crash. The others are not directly involved in the company (except through their voting power as shareholders), however his son Jim Walton is chairman of Arvest Bank. The Walton family held five spots in the top ten richest people in the United States until 2005. Two daughters of Sam's brother Bud Walton Ann Kroenke and Nancy Laurie hold smaller shares in the company. [30]


In 1998, Walton was included in Time 's list of 100 most influential people of the 20th Century. [31] Walton was honored for his work in retail in March 1992, when he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George H. W. Bush. [29]

Forbes ranked Sam Walton as the richest person in the United States from 1982 to 1988, ceding the top spot to John Kluge in 1989 when the editors began to credit Walton's fortune jointly to him and his four children. [32] (Bill Gates first headed the list in 1992, the year Walton died). Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. also runs Sam's Club warehouse stores. Walmart operates in the U.S. and in more than 15 international markets, including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, India, South Africa, Botswana, Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Kenya, Lesotho, Swaziland, Honduras, Japan, Mexico, Nicaragua and the United Kingdom. [33]

At the University of Arkansas, the Business College (Sam M. Walton College of Business) is named in his honor. Walton was inducted into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame in 1992. [34]

See also

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  25. or empty |title= (help)
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