Who is Alice Walton?
Alice Louise Walton is the daughter of Walmart founder Samuel Walton. She was ranked the 18th-richest person and the second richest woman in the world as of April 2019. Raised in Bentonville, Arkansas, Alice Louise Walton earned her B.A. degree in economics and finance from Trinity University in San Antonio and then began her career at her father’s company. However, she soon gave up her position to take up an array of financial jobs, ultimately opening her own investment bank, Llama Company, which she had to close down after ten years. Concurrently, she started raising cutting horses and undertaking philanthropic work, becoming the driving force behind setting up Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport, helping generously with its funding. Always interested in art, she also became an avid art collector, eventually establishing Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art at her hometown Bentonville, dedicating it to American art and artists. She currently holds the post of its chairperson.
Childhood & Early Years
Alice Louise Walton was born on October 7, 1949, in Newport, Arkansas. Her father, Samuel Moore Walton, was a reputed businessman and entrepreneur, best known as the founder of Walmart Inc. (formally Wal-Mart Stores, Inc) and Sam's Club (formally Sam's West, Inc).
Her mother, Helen Robson Walton, was a prominent art advocate and also her husband’s business partner. Born the youngest of her parents four children, she had three elder brothers: Samuel Robson Walton (b. 1944), John Thomas Walton (b. 1946) and Jim Carr Walton (b. 1948).
A year after her birth, her parents moved to Bentonville, a city located in the north-eastern part of Arkansas, where they opened "Walton’s 5 & 10", their first store bearing their name. It was also the city where that family would eventually settle down.
As a child, she was very much interested in art, purchasing her first piece, a reproduction of Picasso's ‘Blue Nude’, at the age of ten. She also loved to play outdoors, riding horses, and painting watercolors with her mother when they went on camping trips.
She had her education at Bentonville High School (BHS), where she took active interest in the Spanish Club, Art Club and Honor Society. She also acted in two plays, appearing in a supporting role in ‘Pardon My Millions.’
In 1967, she graduated from Bentonville High School and entered Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. She graduated from there in 1971 with a B.A. degree in economics and finance.
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Shortly after graduating from Trinity, Alice Walton began her career at Walmart as a buyer of children’s clothes. However, she was not really good at it and therefore left the job to become an equity analyst and money manager for First Commerce Corporation, where she worked for a brief period.
After leaving First Commerce Corporation she served as the vice chairperson and head of all investment-related activities at the family-owned Arvest Bank Group for a brief period. Later, she moved to New Orleans, where she took a job as a broker with the stock brokerage firm, E.F. Hutton.
In 1979, Walton, along with ten other Hutton employees, was accused of making aggressive option trading by Securities and Exchange Commission. Although she claimed that she did not violate any law, she accepted a settlement just to avoid long litigation and was suspended from dealing in securities for six months.
By the middle of the 1980s, she returned to Arkansas, where she set up a farm to raise cutting horses. Concurrently, she also started taking interest in the family business. Eventually in 1988, she established an investment bank called Llama Company as a subsidiary of Walton Enterprises.
Named after a llama she received as a gift, the bank underwrote bonds, provided asset management and also loans to other companies. Serving as its president, chairwoman and CEO, Walton worked with enthusiasm to lift the economy of Northwest Arkansas, at that time ignored by the Wall Street.
Llama Company ran for ten years before it became defunct in 1998. However, the 1990s also brought her two major successes: becoming the first person to chair Northwest Arkansas Council was one of them while opening of Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (1998) was the other.
In 1998, after Llama Company closed down, she retired from the world of high finance to spend more time with her horses, moving her farm to Texas in the same year. Situated on 3,200 acres of land, her Rocking W Ranch soon became one of the top breeders of cutting horse.
Although she lived mainly in Texas, looking after her horses, she continued to return to Bentonville, collecting pieces of art throughout 2000s. Eventually in November 2011, she established Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, in Bentonville, with the intension of showcasing American art.
In 2015, she sold her ranch and moved to Fort Worth, Texas, to be nearer to Crystal Bridges because she felt that it needed her attention more. She has been living there since then.
Alice Walton is best known for her role in the development of the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport. She not only provided $15 million as initial funding for its construction, but as the head of the Llama Company, also helped to complete the project by underwriting $79.5 million in development bonds.
Known as an avid art collector, she built Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art with the goal of reflecting the national history through art and is currently serving as its chairperson. The museum does not charge any entrance fee.
Awards & Achievements
Alice Walton has received several awards for her philanthropic contributions to the society. They include Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art Medal, the John Cotton Dana Medal for Visionary Leadership in Museums, and the Leonore and Walter Annenberg Award for Diplomacy through the Arts.
She was inducted into the Arkansas Aviation Hall of Fame in 2001 and into the International Women’s Forum Hall of Fame in 2018.
Family & Personal Life
Little is known about Alice Walton’s personal life except that she married a Louisiana investment banker sometime in 1974 and divorced him two and half years later. Afterwards, she married a contractor; but that too did not last long. She does not have any issue from either of these marriages.
Known to be a philanthropist, she has donated millions of dollars for different causes. With her brother Jim, she is currently leading a program that will issue $300 million in bonds so that charter schools are able to invest in facilities.
The terminal at the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport has been named Alice L. Walton Terminal Building in her honor.
In his autobiography, her father Samuel Walton had described Alice as "the most like me–a maverick–but even more volatile."