Sam Walton Bio

When I discovered that Sam Walton was once named the wealthiest man on the planet, my ears pricked, and I just had to find out more. My interest in the wealthy has always drawn me to entrepreneurs, and business folk from all over, which left me wondering how he came to own the most significant retail company in the world.

Sam Walton was the founder of Walmart, which I think everyone is familiar with, and his family still runs the company. Sam has gone down in history as one of the most influential people in the world, which is some title don’t you think, which is why I just had to delve even deeper into his life and find out more.

After living such a long and prosperous life, Sam sadly passed away in 1992. So, I thought it only fair that I put together this Sam Walton bio to list his most remarkable achievements and tell everyone the story of his early life, his net worth, how he started Walmart, and a bit about his family life.

Sam Walton Bio Facts

Full Name: Samuel Moore Walton
Birth Date: 29th March 1918
Birth Place: Kingfisher, Oklahoma
Nick Name: Sam
Nationality: American
Siblings: Brother, James ‘Bud’ Walton
Children: Three sons, Samuel Robson, John Thomas, and James Carr, and one daughter, Alice Louise
Partner / Spouse: Helen Robson
Profession: Founder of Walmart, entrepreneur, businessman, captain of military intelligence.
Salary: 860 million
Net Worth: 8.6 billion
Companies Associated With: Walmart
Last Updated: September 2022

Sam Walton Key Facts Summary

Sam Walton

  • He served in the U.S Army from 1942-1945 as a Captain in the Military Intelligence unit.
  • He has three children, two of which still run Walmart today.
  • His estimated salary at the time he passed away was $860 million.
  • He was mentioned in Time’s 100 most influential people of the 20th Century [1]
  • He was ranked as the wealthiest person in America in the 80s.
  • Walmart almost runs Sam’s Club.
  • Walmart operates in 16 countries, including the United States.
  • He has a college named after him in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
  • He died on the 5th of April 1992 from a blood cancer called multiple myeloma.
  • Walmart was almost 30 years old when he passed away.
  • Sam was laid to rest at the Bentonville Cemetery.
  • His son John died in 2005 in a tragic plane crash. [2]
  • His son Rob is the current chairman of Walmart.
  • Waltons family have been named the wealthiest people in America 5 times until 2005.
  • Sam realized from a young age that he wanted to work for himself in the retail industry.
  • Just one month before he passed away, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by the then president of the United States, George. W. Bush.

Sam Walton Birthplace and Early Life

Misuri

Sam was born on 29th March 1918, and he lived with his parents, Nancy Lee and Thomas Gibson Walton, on the family farm until 1923.

His father also worked for his brother’s mortgage company to bring in more money for his family. [3]

Over the next few years, the family, including Sam’s little brother, moved through numerous towns throughout Oklahoma, mainly in the Missouri area.

Sam attended eighth grade at Shelbina, Missouri, where he was the youngest Eagle Scout in the history of Oklahoma. [4] By the time he was an adult, he had received the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award. [5]

Sam grew up throughout the Great Depression, therefore, spent a lot of time helping his parents with chores and anything he could that might better their financial hardship. He would help with jobs such as milking the cow and delivering orders to customers. He also had a paper route and sold magazine subscriptions to bring in extra cash. [6]

Still desperate to try and help his family, Sam enrolled at college after he finished high school, he attended the University of Missouri, where he studied to be an ROTC cadet. Alongside his studies, he continued to take on jobs such as being a waiter in return for meals.

He had many other ventures throughout his teenage years, such as joining the Beta Theta Pi Fraternity, being headhunted for a secret society honoring top senior males, and serving as president of the Burall Bible Class.

Sam graduated in 1940 with a bachelor’s in economics, and was the permanent president of his class. [7]

Just three days after graduating from university, he worked as a management trainee for J.C. Penney, where he got paid a monthly salary of $75.00. He remained in the position for around 18 months before retiring, ready for military service. He later joined the Intelligence Corps, where he supervised security in the prisoner and aircraft camps.

While in the military, he served at Fort Douglas in Utah. He worked his way up to the rank of captain.

Sam Walton Early Business Success

In The Beginning

Sam left the army in 1945 when he was 26 years old. He began managing a superstore before purchasing his shop worth $5000, [8] which he used his savings to pay for, along with a loan from his father for start-up fees. I think by this point, Sam had probably started to build a revenue model in his mind for what he wanted in the future.

The shop was a Butler Brothers Franchise, and it did so well that when the time came to renew the lease on the premises, the landlord refused. Instead, he wanted 5% of all Sam’s sales. Sam wasn’t happy about this and decided to sell the store and all its contents and stock to the greedy landlord.

He sold the store for $50,000, which set him in good stead, to buy a new store in Bentonville, Arkansas. This was what is recognized as the beginning of the monster grocery store, which began to spread around Kansas and Missouri quickly.

Walmart

Walmart

The original Walmart was opened on 2nd July 1962 and was designed with a business strategy aimed at supplying only American-made products.

When the stores first started, they were located in small towns and villages. This was because Sam wanted to help people who lived in the suburbs and had to drive into the city to do their shopping. To make sure that this concept would work, he started to operate his trucking service to deliver to the stores and also made sure that each store wasn’t too far away from a warehouse.

His second aim was to give customers the best possible price he could, which meant buying brand-named products in massive quantities so that they could be sold for a lower value.

Another thing that made the company so unique in its early days was that the Walton’s never had too much to worry about when it came to Walmart’s competitors. This is because, at the time, they were the most prominent retail company doing what they were doing and offering what they were.

This combination meant Walmart grew into the leading discount store we all know and love today.

See also: Walmart Competitors Analysis

Sam Walton Videos

Hear about one of the most beautiful business relationships in history between Sam and his brother James (Bud.)

The story of Sam is about an American dream, and when asked about how he got so successful, he gives all the credit to the people of America. Here is what others had to say around when Sam received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and a clip of the moment he was handed the award.

Watch this interview with Sam Walton, where he discusses his experience surrounding healthcare. Some of this contributed to his vision for future healthcare services within the retail sector.

Sam Walton Business Failures

Sam came from a humble background, one in which his family didn’t have much in terms of finances. But, in my opinion, this led Sam to have extreme missions and values regarding the future of not only his loved ones but his customers too.

Sam was successful from the minute he stepped foot into the world of work, from his time serving his country, to the moment he opened his last Walmart store, and he never let anything stand in his way. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that he never came across any complications, as I am sure he did. But, as far as failures go, I don’t think Sam failed to achieve exactly what he set out to do.

Sam Walton Family

Helen Robson and Sam Walton

Sam was married to his wife, Helen Robson, in 1943, and the couple was still married at the time of his passing. Helen, too sadly passed away in 2015, when she was 97 years old, of natural causes. [9]

During their 25-year marriage, the couple had four children and were believed to be extremely happy. Their children are called Samuel Robson, John Thomas, and James Carr, and a daughter, Alice Louise. John was a director within the company but tragically died in 2005 during a freak plane incident.

After his passing, Robson took his father’s place as chairmen of Walmart, but Alison and James didn’t have much to do with the company’s running, although they did support it and were shareholders.

Sam Walton’s Net Worth and Career Earnings

During the 80s, Sam was named one of the wealthiest men on earth. He was also given the title of “Richest Man in the U.S,” which he held for 6 years.

If Sam’s net worth at the time he died was calculated in today’s value, he would be worth more than $200 billion, earning around $500 million per year in dividends, making him the second richest man in the world after Elon Musk.

Sam Walton Real Estate Holdings

Not much is known about the home of the Waltons other than that they lived in a ranch-style setting next to the woods. It was a large property that could barely be seen from the road but appeared to have a farm-type dog, and a pick-up truck sat in the front yard. Sam drove this pickup for around 13 years, costing him just $5,500. He claimed it was the best choice of vehicle to move around with his dogs.

It does appear, however, that despite their wealth and fortune, the family continued to live with many traditions from their humble roots.

For instance, Sam was not ashamed to be seen standing in line at one of his stores to purchase goods.

Sam Walton Quotes

Sam Walton

I think it’s great listening to Sam Walton speak about his life, and it’s a real shame that he was taken from the world too early, but during his life, he had some fascinating things to say and had plenty of quotes. So let’s take a look at just a couple of those things.

“Outstanding leaders will go out of their way to boost others’ self-esteem. If people believe in themselves, what they can accomplish is amazing.”

“Commit to your business; believe in it more than anything else.”

“High expectations are the key to everything.”

“Don’t follow the money; follow the passion.”

“Treat the customer like the boss.”

“Take good care of your people.”

“You can’t just keep doing what works one time. Everything around you is changing. So to succeed, stay in front of the challenge.”

FAQs – Sam Walton Bio

Question: How Old Was Sam Walton When He Died?

Answer: Sam was just 74 years old when he passed away from a blood cancer called Multiple Myeloma.

Question: Who Took Over Sam Walton as Chairman of Walmart?

Answer: His son John Ronson Walton succeeded Sam as the company’s chairman after he passed away.

Question: When Did Sam Walton Open The First Walmart?

Answer: The first Walmart store was opened on 2nd July 1962.

Recommended Reads:

Research Citations

  1. https://web.archive.org/web/20001018095153/http://www.time.com/time/time100/builder/profile/walton.html
  2. https://www.nbcnews.com/id/wbna8381553
  3. https://failurebeforesuccess.com
  4. www.vantrumpreport.com/from-farm-boy-to-eagle-scout
  5. https://en.geneastar.org/genealogy/waltons/sam-walton
  6. https://archive.org/details/isbn_0471196533/page/269
  7. https://www.britannica.com//Sam-Walton
  8. https://samwaltonhistoryfair.weebly.com/first-stores.html
  9. https://www.foxnews.com/story/helen-robson-walton-widow-of-wal-mart-founder-sam-walton-dies-at-87
Latest posts by Maddy Chiffey (see all)
Scroll to Top