Alice Walton is an heir to the Wal-Mart fortune and one of the richest women in America. The youngest of Sam and Helen Walton’s children and their only daughter, Alice Louise Walton has lived a fascinating and sometimes controversial life. Alice is one of the three living heirs to the company founded by her father and brother James in Bentonville, Arkansas in 1962 and incorporated in 1969. Born on October 7, 1949, the Arkansas native has spent much of her life working in the world of finance and serving on many community boards.
Alice’s controversial life has caught the attention of skeptics for decades. An avid art enthusiast, Alice founded a museum and has purchased some masterpieces at auctions to stock the museum. Art lovers have questioned her interest and appreciation for artwork. Alice has contributed to controversial political campaigns which has angered some. She has been involved in more than one car accident due to the use of alcohol but has gotten out of these incidents with merely relatively small fines for one of the richest women in America. In recent years, Wal-Mart has come under scrutiny for offering small wages for its workers, and Alice has taken the brunt of the criticism.
Here are 10 things you didn’t know about Alice Walton:
Alice Walton’s Net Worth makes her the third wealthiest woman in America
With an estimated net worth of $35 billion, Alice Walton is the third richest woman in America and one of the wealthiest women in the world. The richest woman in America is 90-year-old heiress, Liliane Bettencourt, and the second richest is Alice’s sister-in-law, Christy Walton. Much of Alice Walton’s wealth comes from her shares in Wal-Mart. Alice and her brothers own more than a 50% stake in Wal-Mart and receive substantial dividends from the company. The Walton’s combined income from Wal-Mart is that of 42% of combined lower income Americans families.
Alice didn’t start working in the family business
Alice graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Arts and Sciences from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. Unlike her brothers, Alice did not go into the family business. She entered the world of finance and economics instead. Her first job was as an equity analyst for First Commerce Group. She worked as a broker for E.F. Hutton. Alice started an investment bank in 1988 but it soon folded with the decline in the market the following year. Alice is the Vice Chairperson for Arvest Bank Group.
Alice, the art lover
The Walton Family Foundation, a nonprofit organization, founded the Crystal Bridges Museum of Art 2005 and opened in 2009 in the Walton hometown of Bentonville, Arkansas. The museum was founded to celebrate American art and to educate. The museum is unique in design and incorporates the beauty of nature in its design to compliment the nearby Crystal Bridges natural spring. The museum features valuable American artworks, a 50,000 volume library of art reference material and sculpture and walking trails.
Alice Walton’s love of American art has been questioned by some skeptics in the art world. In 2005, Alice purchased Kindred Spirit by Asher Brown Durand from the New York Public Library. The $35 million painting was created in 1849 and is an American classic. It was donated to the library in 1849 by Julia Bryant, daughter of poet William Cullen Bryant. Other artworks purchased by Alice for the museum include works by Winslow Homer, Charles Wilson and Edward Harper. Alice also purchased a collection at Sotheby’s auction that belonged to David and Rita Freed with a $20 million value.
Alice has conservative political ties
Alice Walton was the 20th largest contributor to the 2004 United States Presidential Election. She donated $2.6 million to the conservative Progress For American Group which supported US occupation in Iraq and George W. Bush. The campaign’s ads were criticized for being inaccurate.
Alice has been involved in troubling accidents
Perhaps the most upsetting thing in Alice Walton’s life that has angered many is a series of automobile accidents for which Alice got off with a mere slap on the wrist. The first crash occurred in Acapulco, Mexico in 1983. Alice drove her car off a ravine. Two doctors sent notes to the authorities explaining that Alice has a difficulty with balance due to an earlier injury that left one leg shorter than the other.
In 1989, Alice was speeding in Fayetteville, Arkansas and hit a pedestrian. Oleta Harden, a 50 year old cannery worker died from her injuries. Alice was not cited or charged for the incident. In 1998, Alice totaled her SUV in Springdale, Arkansas when she hit a gas meter and a phone booth. She was charged with driving while intoxicated. Despite a blood alcohol level 6 points over the legal limit and her lawyers argued Alice was fatigued, Alice Walton was fined $925. Most recently, in October 2011, Alice
Walton was pulled over by police and failed a sobriety test. When police discovered her expired registration, Alice told them she had someone who does that for her.
The wealth of the Walton family has cost much discontent with workers at Wal-Mart. Workers have called for higher than minimum wage and have protested their low pay. In light of the fact that the Wal-Mart family receives millions in dividends from their Wal-Mart stock, the feeling of much of America is that they should provide better for the employees.
Wal-Mart is the largest grocery retailer in the United States and has one of the world’s highest market value. Sam Walton refused to contribute to charitable causes other than donating for education. This caused much unrest and the Walton family gradually began donating to more charitable causes since Sam Walton’s death.
Alice Walton is known as a philanthropist and has volunteered for many charitable causes. It was Sam and Helen Walton’s belief that investment in one’s community was vital. The Walton Family Foundation mostly, run by Alice Walton, adheres to that principle. The Foundation supports K-12 education, economic development in the Mississippi delta and northwest Arkansas regions, and environmental conservation in the area.
Camp War Eagle
The Walton Family Foundation started Camp War Eagle, a Christian summer camp that offers over 60 types of activities for children of all economic, social and racial backgrounds. Located on Beaver Lake in northwest Arkansas, the camp provides scholarships when necessary so kids, ages 7-17, can have the opportunity to enjoy a variety of summer activities together. The camp’s goal is to create in children, a greater appreciation for God, others and themselves.
Recently for sale, Alice Walton lives on a 3200 acre Texas ranch called The Rocking W Ranch. Located in Mineral Wells, Texas, the working horse ranch is a scenic place where Alice retreats and spends time with friends and her nieces and nephews. She also owns another more secluded ranch located on river frontage with the ability to keep oil and gas drillers off of it. The total acreage of the 2 ranches is 5872 and the price is $48 million.
Despite her active philanthropy and controversial issues, Alice Walton has managed to keep her persona mostly private. Without being too public, Alice has been able to mostly live her life of privilege and wealth under the radar. Although many have criticized her use of her wealth to get out of certain situations, Alice Walton remains a key factor in the Walton family’s philanthropic ventures which supports education, economics and the environment.