Early Family

  • Samuel Moore Walton was born on March 29, 1918 near Kingfisher, Oklahoma.
    • His parents were Thomas Gibson Walton and Nancy "Nannie" Lee Lawrence.¹
  • His father was a farmer, but decided it did not produce enough income to sustain a family, so he moved the family to Missouri in 1923.
    • They moved from small town to small town and Thomas worked in mortgage at a bank.¹
  • His brother was James Lawrence Walton, but went by the nickname of "Bud."¹

His Latter Family

  • Helen Robson Kemper Walton was the wife of Sam.
    • At one point she was the 11th wealthiest person in America.
    • She died of heart failure on Thursday, April 19 2007.⁶
  • Samuel Robson Walton is the oldest son.
    • He is currently chairman of the worldwide company.
    • According to Forbes, his net worth is $19.2 billion as of 2008.⁷
  • John Thomas Walton served as an air pilot for the company.
    • He was also the Chairman of True North Partners, a venture capital firm.
    • Died in 2005 in a plane crash.
    • Had the same net worth as his brother.⁸
  • Jim Carr Walton was the youngest son of Sam Walton and is chairman of Arvest Bank.
    • Has an estimated net-worth of $17.2 billion.⁹
  • Alice Louise Walton is the only daughter of Sam Walton.
    • Estimated worth of $18 billion making her the richest woman in the world.⁵

Historical Times

Early Life

Sam Walton was born the year that World War I had ended. The country was in a state good state of economic growth, but the sudden collapse of the United States stock market in 1929, gave rise to some of the world's harshest years in what is known as the Great Depression. During this time, unemployment in the country rose to 25%. Farming suffered as crop prices fell by approximately 60%.² Around 1933, all countries began to see a return of the economic system as it used to be, but it was not until around 1940 when the unemployment returned back near its old state.

His First Stores (1945-1962)

Walton finished his duty as an Army Captain in 1945, when World War II ended. The post World War II period is most famous for being the baby-boom era. Since the Great Depression had recently ended and as men in the military returned home, the economy soared, especially in the United States. This period is also known as the Golden Age of Capitalism. Movements and phenomena associated with this period include the height of the Cold War, postmodernism, decolonization, a marked increase in consumerism, the welfare state, the space race, the Non-Aligned Movement, import substitution, opposition to the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement, the sexual revolution and the beginning of feminism, and a nuclear arms race. In the United States, the middle class began a mass migration away from the cities and towards the suburbs. In essence, people began spending more money and, thus, drove an increase in demand.


  • In 8th grade he became the youngest Eagle Scout in the state of Missouri³
  • Was voted "Most Versatile Boy" in high school.⁴
  • He graduated from the University of Missouri in economics and was voted the "permenant president" of the class.⁴
  • Achieved the rank of Captain in the U.S. Army Intelligence Corps.⁴
  • Walton married Helen Robson in 1943.
    • They had four children: Rob, John, Jim and Alice.⁴
  • The Sam and Helen R. Walton Award was created in 1991 when the Waltons made a gift of $6 million.¹
  • In 1998, Walton was included in Time's list of 100 most influential people of the 20th Century.⁴
  • Walton received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George H. W. Bush in 1992.⁴
  • Jiangsu province of the People's Republic of China awarded him the Golden Star Foreigner's Award for "tireless assistance in the development of People's owned factories in the Suzhou area".⁴
  • Forbes ranked Sam Walton as the richest man in the United States from 1985 to 1988.
  • Business College (Sam M. Walton College of Business) is named in his honor at the University of Arkansas.⁴
  • Walton was inducted into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame in 1992.⁴

Wal-Mart Facts

  • Wal-Mart is the largest private employer and the largest grocery retailer in the United States. It also owns and operates the Sam's Club retail warehouses in North America.¹²
  • Wal-Mart operates in Mexico as Walmex, in the United Kingdom as Asda, in Japan as Seiyu, and in India as Best Price. It has wholly-owned operations in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, and Puerto Rico.
  • It began trading stock as a publicly held company on October 1, 1970.¹³
  • In the 1980s, Walmart continued to grow rapidly, and by its 25th anniversary in 1987 there were 1,198 stores with sales of $15.9 billion and 200,000 associates.¹³
  • In 1998, Walmart introduced the "Neighborhood Market" concept with three stores in Arkansas.¹³
  • In 2005, Walmart had $312.4 billion in sales, more than 6,200 facilities around the world—including 3,800 stores in the United States and 2,800 elsewhere, employing more than 1.6 million "associates" worldwide.¹³

Summary of Samuel Walton

Sam Walton was born on March 29, 1918 in Kingfisher, Oklahoma to Thomas Gibson Walton, a farmer, and Nancy Lee Walton. In 1923, Walton's father determined that their farm did not provide enough income on which to raise a family and decided to move the family to Missouri to become a mortgage banker, his previous profession. The Walton family moved from town to town with Walton's father.¹

Sam Walton excelled at basketball and football during his high school years and
did well academically. Growing up during the Great Depression meant that his family was always looking for ways to save money so, part of his daily routine involved milking cows and delivering milk, along with newspapers, to people in the neighborhood. He even sold magazine subscriptions when he had extra time.⁴

attended the University of Missouri and majored in economics, hoping to find a career that could help support his family back home. Walton was an officer with the ROTC unit and worked odd jobs, such as a waiter in a restaurant, to help feed and support himself, and he joined various prestigious fraternities including the school's business fraternity.¹⁰ He graduated from the University of Missouri in 1940 and married Helen Robson after graduation and they eventually had four children.¹

With his degree, Sam Walton joined the management team of JCPenny in Des Moines, Iowa, only three days after graduation making $75 a month. Having served with the ROTC in college, Walton anticipated military service when World War II began in 1942 and he
joined the military in the U.S. Army Intelligence Corps, supervising security at aircraft plants and prisoner of war camps where he eventually became Captain.¹

After serving in the military, Walton wanted to open his own department store, however he decided to settle with a variety store. His father-in-law gave him a loan of $20,000 and he had $5,000 from his service in the Army to purchased a Ben Franklin variety store in Newport, Arkansas, which was part of a chain of stores. Sam Walton wanted to focus on providing a wide range of goods at discounted prices to the consumer and keep his stores open longer than his competitors, even during the Christmas season. He created the practice of discount merchandising by buying wholesale goods from the lowest priced supplier, thus allowing him to pass his savings on to his customers, which drove up sales to the point that Walton's store had the highest sales and profits for the chain in its six state region. Walton closed his store because the landlord was raising rent and required to be paid 5% of all sales.¹

Walton went on to open a new store in Bentonville, Arkansas called Walton's Five and Dime in 1945.¹¹ He continued to provide low prices with long hours, and went on to open more Ben Franklin stores with the help of his brother, father-in-law, and brother-in-law. By 1962 Walton and his brother Bud owned a total of sixteen stores in Kansas, Missouri, and Arkansas, most of which still functioned under the brand of Ben Franklin.¹ Walton decided to concentrate on retail business instead of the shopping centers and opened larger stores which were called Walton's Family Center. In 1962, he opened the first Wal-Mart in Rogers, Arkansas⁴, just outside of Bentonville.

Sam Walton carried over the lessons he learned from working at the Ben Franklin stores, by providing a large variety of goods at consistently low prices since the opening of the first Wal-Mart until the day he died.¹ However, before his death, Forbes listed him the richest man in the world from 1985 until 1988 until the editors began crediting his fortune between him and his four children.⁴

Walton died Sunday April 5, 1992, of multiple myeloma, a type of a bone cancer, in Little Rock, Arkansas. He left his ownership in Wal-Mart to his wife and their children. Rob Walton succeeded his father as the Chairman of the Board of Wal-Mart, and John was a director until his death in a 2005 plane crash. The others are not directly involved in the company except through their power as shareholders.⁴


¹ Sam Walton: Made in America by Sam Walton with John Huey
² Frank, Robert H.; Bernanke, Ben S. (2007). Principles of Macroeconomics (3rd ed.). p. 98. ISBN 0073193976.
³Townley, Alvin. Legacy of Honor: The Values and Influence of America's Eagle Scouts. New York: St. Martin's Press. pp. 88-89. ISBN 0-312-36653-1. Retrieved 2006-12-29.
⁴ Daniel, Gross; //Forbes// Magazine Staff (August 1997). Greatest Business Stories of All Time (First ed.). New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Kroll, Luisa (2007-03-08). "The World's Billionaires". Forbes. Retrieved 2008-03-04.
It All Began in a Small Store in Arkansas..., Guardian News & Media (2008).
¹³"The Wal-Mart Timeline." Wal-Mart (published on Retrieved on July 24, 2006.