Sam Walton: A Biography
America's richest man, Sam Walton, was not always rich. Growing up during the depression, he struggled to help his family then, not knowing he would one day own a multi-billion dollar business, and then struggle to help the poorest of America becoming one of the top philanthropists in the United States. Also seen as a great leader, not everyone agrees on the "greatness" of the man who laid the foundation of some of the most significant management concepts used today in the business world.
On March 29, 1918, Sam Walton was born in Kingfisher, Oklahoma to parents Thomas Gibson and Nancy Lee Walton. Sam's father Tom had decided to name his first born son after his father, Samuel Moore Walton (Trimble, 1990). The family lived on a farm while Sam's father ran a farm mortgage business. The Great Depression during the 1920's was hard times for the family, causing a downfall in profit for Tom's business. Without enough money to cover expenses, Tom decided to move the family, Nancy, Sam, and his younger brother James, who was born in 1921, to Missouri. There Tom worked hard during the depression working for his half-brother who also ran a farm mortgage business. Sam's family was moved from town to town in Missouri, living in Springfield, Marshall, and Shelbina, over a period of ten years (Canadeo, 1992). Although Sam was a shy and quiet boy, he looked up to his father and took after him, holding family traits of being persistent, determined, and a natural leader (Canadeo, 1992). During this time of need, Sam did whatever he could to help out his family. He did small jobs for neighbors, such as painting porches, bottling milk from the cows and selling them for the neighbors. This hard work and determination also showed through Sam in school. Attending Shelbina High School, Sam was a good athlete and very popular among his peers. He helped his football team become undefeated his sophomore year and was the first Boy Scout in the state's history to become an Eagle Scout at the age of fifteen. He achieved this by actually saving another boy's life one day during a picnic. Sam and his class were enjoying a picnic by the Salt River when one of the boy's fell into the river about to drown before Sam jumped in and saved him (Canadeo, 1992). Soon after, Sam's family moved once again to Columbia, Missouri, where Sam would attend the Hickman High School. There he played as quarterback of the undefeated football team and also lettered in the basketball team. He was an honor's student and very active in almost every club and organization the school had to offer. He was also the vice-president of his junior class, president of the student body his senior year, and was voted "The Most Versatile Boy." Even though Sam's time was being taken with school and athletics, he didn't let it take all of his time. He made sure to save time to help out his dad and the family with expenses. He continued to do odd jobs from delivering newspapers at dawn before school to becoming a part-time helper in a five-and-ten cent store after school (Trimble, 1990). Sam graduated from the Hickman High School in 1936 and began attending college in the fall at the University of Missouri. With his family still needing help, Sam continued to deliver his newspapers, increasing his route to 160 subscribers, and ultimately becoming and staying as the top salesman for several years. He also waited tables at an on campus diner in exchange for meals and worked as a lifeguard during the summers at a local pool, in which he also became the star of a swim team he organized. When he wasn't delivering newspapers or waiting tables, Sam also taught a Sunday school class of girls from another college. Along with his studies and work, Sam found time to be apart of the Beta Theta Phi fraternity, was selected to become a member of the university's most prestigious honor society, Q.E.B.H, which he later became president of, and was elected class president his...
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