Sam Walton

Born: 3/29/1918
Birthplace: Kingfisher, Okla.

After graduating from the University of Missouri, he began his career as a retail merchant when he opened the first of several franchises of the Ben Franklin five-and-dime franchises in Arkansas. He opened his first Wal-Mart store in 1962; specializing in name-brands at low prices, the chain of Wal-Mart stores sprang up across rural America. Walton's management style was popular with employees and helped to spur growth, taking the company public in 1970. The decentralized distribution system created the edge needed to further spur growth in the 1980s amidst growing complaints that the "superstore" was squelching smaller, traditional Mom and Pop stores. By 1991, Wal-Mart was the largest U.S. retailer with 1,700 stores. He remained active in managing the company, as president and CEO until 1988 and chairman until his death. He was awarded the Medal of Freedom shortly before his death.

Died: 4/5/1992