Alice Walton Family History
Alice Louise Walton was born on October 7th, 1949 to Sam and Helen Walton in Newport, Arkansas. She was the last of their four children and the only girl. Each of them would become incredibly rich from the wealth that their father Sam Walton had created through Walmart.
After the death of John Walton in a plane crash in 2005, the remaining Walton siblings – Rob, Jim and Alice – were the principal shareholders in Walmart. Each were worth about $70 billion in 2021. By that reckoning Alice Walton would be the second richest woman in the world.
In his 1992 autobiography Made in America, Sam Walton remarked that Alice was “the most like me, a maverick, but even more volatile than I am.” That volatility can be seen in her marriage record:
- she married a prominent Louisiana investment banker in 1974 when she was twenty-four, but that marriage did not last three years.
- and she married the contractor who built her swimming pool soon after, but they too divorced quickly.
She has been involved in a number of automobile accidents. In 1983 she lost control of a rented Jeep near Acapulco and plunged into a ravine, shattering her leg. She was airlifted out of Mexico and underwent more than two dozen surgeries. In 1998 she hit a gas meter while driving under the influence of alcohol. She paid the $925 fine.
No marriage, no children, no Walmart involvement. So what then have been her enthusiasms? The main answer is probably art. Starting in 2005, she had built a 200,000-square-foot museum from scratch at Bentonville in NW Arkansas. She filled her Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art with Warhols, Rothkos and Pollocks, as well as with pricey gems from lesser-known artists. It was almost unprecedented to amass such an impressive set of work in such a short period of time. The museum has attracted tourist traffic to this area of the Ozarks.
She used to spend time at the Rocking W Ranch an hour west of Fort Worth, Texas where she bred cutting horses. But she sold the ranch in 2017.
The Walton Line
The Walton line seems to be known from William Penn Walton who was born in Virginia in 1819 and came to Cooper county, Missouri in 1838. He married the fifteen year old Louisa Turley there in 1840. Louisa’s father Samuel, originally from Kentucky, had arrived in Missouri in 1814 and was one of its earliest settlers.
The Walton line may have extended (as some genealogies have suggested) back to Samuel Walton from Herefordshire in England who had come to America at the time of the Revolutionary War. However, it does seem strange that all of his Walton children were born in New Portland, Maine (four of them marrying Churchills there) until the last son William Penn Walton was recorded as being born in Virginia. He was probably misplaced for the William Pullen Walton who was born in 1821 of the Samuel Walton line in Maine and stayed in Maine.
Instead, his ancestors were more likely to have come from Virginia. William was said to have had a younger brother named Benjamin who remained in Virginia, fought on the Confederate side during the Civil War, and was killed in 1862. And Benjamin had a Virginia line going back to the 1650’s.
William Penn Walton was a farmer in Cooper county, Missouri. He and his wife Louisa lived in a log cabin where they raised eleven children.
Their eldest son William, born in 1842, moved to Bates county in western Missouri where he was elected the county clerk in 1874. He subsequently established the Missouri Bank of Butler to serve farmers in the area and was its President for twenty-one years. He like other of his siblings would later move to California.
Samuel Walton, born in 1846, started a general store at Lamine in Cooper county in 1869. All went well until his wife died in 1880 at the age of thirty-two while giving birth to their seventh child. Samuel closed his store and headed south with his family to a new community in the backwoods of the Ozarks in Webster county. He started another general store and operated as postmaster for Diggins. But disaster struck when both Samuel and his second wife Clara died within months of each other in 1894 from an apparent flu epidemic.
Their son Thomas was just two at the time and was sent to live with his grandmother Louisa at El Dorado Springs in Cedar county. Years later he moved to Kingfisher, Oklahoma where his two older brothers had grown up under the care of one of their Walton uncles. In Kingfisher in 1917 Tom Walton married Nannia Lee Lawrence, the daughter of a well-off farmer. With his father-in-law’s help, Tom bought a piece of property and started farming himself. Two sons – Sam and James (Bud) – were born during their time there.
However, farming did not provide enough money to raise a family and Tom went into farm mortgaging in 1923. He returned to Missouri to work for his brother Jesse’s Walton Mortgage Company (acting as an agent for Metropolitan Life Insurance) initially in Springfield and later in Columbia. As a farm appraiser, Tom would find himself foreclosing on farms during the Great Depression.
Sam Walton and Walmart
Sam Walton who grew up during the Depression in Columbia, Missouri joined the army at the outbreak of war and married in 1943. In 1945, after leaving the army, he took over management of his first variety store. With the help of a $20,000 loan from his father-in-law, he purchased a Ben Franklin variety store in Newport, Arkansas. Other Ben Franklin stores followed and he moved with his family to Bentonville, Arkansas in 1950.
Sam Walton was often portrayed as a folksy, ol’ country boy, concerned about the welfare of his workers. According to this myth, Sam drove around in a pick-up truck when he could have been chauffeured in a limousine. Mr. Sam, as he liked his underlings to call him, didn’t care a hoot about money, but only about following his dream. Beneath this myth, however, was one tough businessman.
Sam Walton had opened his first discount store under the Walmart name in Rogers, Arkansas in 1961. The idea of a discount store was to sell a lower line of goods than a regular department store, but also to sell many of the same goods as regular department stores at a cheaper price. How would that be possible? It required cost accounting “savings.” The discount store could find some efficiencies of scale and also operate at a lower profit margin per unit good than a regular department store. Walton used two tactics primarily to get his way, one towards his workers and the other towards his suppliers.
He resolved to pay his workers less, ferociously resisted any unionization, and restricted most of his workers to working no more than 28 hours per week – which would mean they would not qualify for employee benefits. Walmart workers have earned wage and benefit packages that have been 12-30 percent below those paid to workers in comparable jobs at unionized companies. During most of Sam Walton’s reign, Walmart had an extraordinarily high worker turnover rate of 35-45 percent.
Walton also instituted a policy that suppliers would have to sell goods to Walmart at constantly lower prices. That forced them to cut expenses and labor costs. Eventually this led to many of these suppliers outsourcing their production to overseas sweatshops, a policy that started to gain steam in the 1980’s under Sam Walton’s direction.
By 1992, the year when Sam Walton died, there were almost 2,000 Walmart stores operating in the United States. Sam’s son Rob succeeded Sam as the CEO of the company. Another son John was a director until his death in a 2005 plane crash; while a third son Jim, the CEO of Arvest Bank, has been active as a shareholder.
Alice Walton’s Family Tree
- Edmund P. Walton m. Lettice Watson in Bath county, Virginia
- – William P. Walton (1819-1879)
- – Benjamin T. Walton (1822-1862) m. Margaret Mustoe
- William Penn Walton m. Louisa Jane Turley (1825-1904) in Missouri in 1840
- – William Walton (1842-1923) m. Malinda Kincaid
- – Mary Walton (1844-1926) m. William Marshall
- – Samuel Walton (1846-1894)
- – James Walton (1853-1931) m. Margaret Schwendener
- – Virginia Walton (1863-1942) m. William Chamberlin
- – George Walton (1866-1918) m. Mabel Welch
- – Nelle Walton (1870-1951) m. Herbert Stoddart
- Samuel Walton m. Laura Tyler (1848-1880); rem. Clara Layton (1865-1894) in Missouri in 1883
- – Daisy Walton (1867-1931) m. James Kibler
- – Harriet Walton (1870-1958) m. James Wall
- – Jesse Walton (1876-1962) m. Edith Etheringham
- – Thomas Walton (1892-1984)
- Thomas Gibson (Tom) Walton m. Nannia Lee (Nan) Lawrence (1898-1959) in Oklahoma in 1917
- – Samuel (Sam) Walton (1918-1992)
- – James (Bud) Walton (1921-1995) m. Audrey (Audie)
- Samuel Moore Walton m. Helen Robson (1919-2007) in 1943
- – Samuel Robson (Rob) Walton (b. 1944) m. Patricia Rawlings; rem. Carolyn Funk; rem. Melani Lowman
- – John Thomas Walton (1946-2005) m. Mary Gunn; rem. Christy Tallant; died in plane crash
- – James (Jim) Walton (b. 1948) m. Lynne McNabb
- – Alice Walton (b. 1949)
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