Biography for Sam Walton (1918–1992) Sam Walton was born in 1918 in Kingfisher, Oklahoma. In1942, he joined the military and married Helen Robson on Valentine’s Day of the following year. When his military service ended in 1945, Sam and Helen moved to Iowa and then to Newport, Arkansas. During this time, Sam gained his early retail experience, eventually operating his own Ben Franklin variety store along the way before Sam and his family would leave Newport for Bentonville, Arkansas. It is there that he and Helen would raise their four children – Rob, John, Jim, and Alice – and he would open Walton’s 5&10 on the downtown square. Inspired by the early success of his dime store and driven to bring even greater opportunity and value to his customers, Sam opened the first Walmart in 1962 in Rogers, Arkansas, at the age of 44. While competitors thought his idea that a successful business could be built around offering lower prices and great service would never work, it turned out the company’s success exceeded even Sam’s expectations. Walmart went public in 1970, and the proceeds financed a steady expansion of the business. Sam credited the rapid growth of Walmart not just to the low costs that attracted his customers, but also to his associates. He relied on them to give customers the great shopping experience that would keep them coming back. Sam shared his vision for the company with associates in a way that was nearly unheard of in the industry. He made them partners in the success of the company, and he firmly believed that this partnership was what made Walmart great. As the stores grew, so did Sam’s aspirations. In addition to bringing new approaches and technologies to retail, he also experimented with new store formats and even made the decision to take Walmart into Mexico. Sam’s fearlessness in offering lower prices and bringing Walmart’s value to customers in the U.S. and beyond set a standard for the company that lives on to this day. His strong commitment to service and to the values that help individuals, businesses, and the country succeed earned him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, awarded by President George H. W. Bush in 1992. It was during Sam’s acceptance remarks that he articulated what would come to be Walmart’s official company purpose, “If we work together,” he said, “we’ll lower the cost of living for everyone...we’ll give the world an opportunity to see what it’s like to save and have a better life.” Today, “saving people money so they can live better” is the driving force behind everything the company does. Sam died in 1992, shortly after receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom, but his legacy lives on. To this day, Walmart remains a leader in the retail industry. It’s committed not just to expanding the business to better serve its customers, but also to improving the communities it serves through its efforts to constantly improve what they do and how they do it.
Images of Sam Walton not to long after moving to Bentonville