Walton, Sam


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Walton, Sam

(Samuel Moore Walton), 1918–92, American retailing executive, b. Kingfisher, Okla. After 17 years of operating franchise retail stores, he opened the first Wal-Mart Discount City in Rogers, Ark., in 1962. Walton developed Wal-Mart into a chain of massive, centrally controlled stores that were typically sited in small towns and rural areas. The stores featured heavy discounting, smaller profit margins than usual coupled with higher-volume sales, and a customer-oriented staff. Wal-Mart flourished, went public in 1970, and by 1991 had become a multibillion-dollar business and America's largest retailer. Walton, who stepped aside as chief executive of the company in 1988 but remained active in its management, was by 1985 the wealthiest person in the United States.

Bibliography

See his autobiography (1992); biography by B. Ortega (1998).

His youngest child is philanthropist Alice Louise Walton, 1949–, b. Newport, Ark., grad. Trinity Univ., San Antonio, Tex. (B.A., 1971). Using funds from a personal fortune estimated at more than $20 billion, Walton became a serious art collector, focusing on American works, and used her collection to found the Crystal Bridges Museum (opened 2011) in her hometown of Bentonville, Ark. The museum, which has a large endowment, includes American art from the Colonial period to contemporary times.

Walton, (Samuel Moore) Sam

(1918–92) retail executive; born in Kingfish, Okla. Raised in Missouri, he graduated from the University of Missouri. In 1945 he opened the first of a chain of Ben Franklin five-and-dime franchises in Arkansas, and in 1962, his first Wal-Mart discount store. Headquartered at Bentonville, Ark., he created a national chain of Wal-Mart stores in small towns and rural areas, selling brand-name goods in high volume at low prices (and often ruining local Main Street merchants). The company went public (1970), and thanks to a unique decentralized distribution system and his charismatic leadership and celebrated hands-on management style, it grew exponentially in the 1980s. In 1991 Wal-Mart became the nation's largest retailer, with 1,700 stores; he was reported by Forbes to be the richest man in the country. He was president and CEO until 1988 and chairman until his death. The family business empire included Arkansas and Oklahoma banks and newspapers. He was awarded the Medal of Freedom shortly before his death.
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