Quick facts

Family: Second child of Sam and Helen Walton; brothers Rob and Jim and sister Alice. Married to Christy Walton; one son, Lukas. First marriage to Mary Ann Gunn ended in divorce.

Age:  Died June 27, 2005 at age 58 (born October 8, 1946)

Residence: Last lived in Jackson, WY.

John Walton died in June 2005, when he crashed an experimental airplane. A National Transportation Safety Board investigation indicated that the crash was caused by the incorrect installation of a piece of airplane equipment.[1]


At the time of his death, Forbes magazine had ranked John Walton as the 11th-richest person in the world, tied with his brother Jim. The brothers then each had an estimated net worth of $18.2 billion.

John’s widow, Christy Walton,  has an estimated net worth of $36.7 billion through her late husband’s estate, and is the richest woman in the world according to Forbes magazine (as of March 2014). Through John’s estate, Christy Walton:

  • Shares 50.8% ownership of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. with John’s siblings, Alice, Jim, and Rob.
  • Shares 96% ownership of the family’s Arvest Bank (Jim Walton, CEO) with Rob and Jim Walton[2]; As of March 2013, the bank’s assets totaled approximately $14.3 billion.
  • Holds 30% ownership in solar energy company First Solar—an investment worth $1 billion.[3]

Educational and professional background


Attended College of Wooster for two years. He dropped out of school during the Vietnam War and became an Army Green Beret.

Professional life

  • Army Special Forces, Special Operations Group. Walton was awarded a Silver Star for his service during the Vietnam War.[4]
  • Briefly served as the company pilot for Walmart[5]
  • Crop-dusting business in Texas and Arizona, following his return from Vietnam.[6] The business was owned by the family business partnership, Walton Enterprises.[7]
  • Founded sailboat manufacturer Corsair Marine in 1984 in Chula Vista, CA. Walton sold the company in 1994.
  • Board of Directors, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., from 1992 to his death; his brother Jim Walton replaced him on the board.
  • Founded technology-focused venture capital firm True North Partners in 1998.[8]
  • Chairman of SATLOC, Inc., an Arizona-based manufacturer of GPS systems for industry and applications; SATLOC was purchased in 1999 by the company now called Hemisphere GPS.

Political giving

Federal giving

From 1992 until his death, John Walton gave over $540,000 to politicians running for federal office. The largest recipient of his wealth was the Republican National Committee, to which he gave $235,000 in the 2000, 2002, and 2004 cycles.

State-level giving

  • Florida: In 2002, John Walton gave $325,000 to then-Gov. Jeb Bush’s re-election campaign, making him the biggest individual contributor to Gov. Jeb Bush’s re-election campaign. Bush, like Walton, was a supporter of school voucher programs. In addition, through a state program to eradicate tree disease that was in place during Bush’s tenure as governor, the state paid for Florida consumers to purchase new citrus trees exclusively at Walmart stores.
  • California: In 2004, John Walton gave $200,000 to then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s California Recovery Team campaign account, $350,000 in support of open primaries in the state, and $150,000 to other candidates and issues.[9]

Community connections

Before his death, John Walton was, along with his siblings, a Director of the Walton Family Foundation; he coordinated the education work of his family and family’s foundation.

Walton was also involved with other school choice and education reform organizations:

  • Walton founded the Children’s Scholarship Fund in 1998 with the late Republican financier Ted Forstmann. CSF funds private school educations for low-income children. John’s widow, Christy Walton, is now the co-chair of CSF.
  • Walton was a board member of the California Charter Schools Association. John’s niece, Carrie Walton Penner, currently sits on the CCSA board. CCSA seeks to grow the number of publicly-funded charter schools in California.
  • Walton assisted in the merger of organizations that led to the creation of the Alliance for School Choice. Again, his niece Carrie Walton Penner now sits on the board of this organization. The Alliance for School Choice is a 501(c)3 school choice advocacy group affiliated with Republican activist Betsy DeVos.
  • Walton was a shareholder in Tesseract Group, Inc. (formerly Education Alternatives, Inc.), a for-profit company school development company. The company went bankrupt and liquidated in 2006.


[1] “Report faults modification for Walton’s fatal crash,” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, November 10, 2006.

[2] Wal-Mart primer from former company spokesman,” Northwestern Financial Review, Vol. 194, No. 5, 3/1/2009-3/14/2009

[3] FSLR Historical Prices; calculation based on 8/15/13 share price of $37.63.

[4] “The Waltons: Inside America’s Richest Family,” Andy Serwer, Fortune Magazine, November 15, 2004.

[5] “Walton shared love of flying, broke mold in business,” Sharon Crawford, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, June 29, 2005.

[6] “The Waltons: Inside America’s Richest Family,” Andy Serwer, Fortune Magazine, November 15, 2004.

[7] Sam Walton: Made in America, page 74

[8] “Walton’s pals recall patriotic, caring man,” Christopher Leonard, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, June 29, 2005.

[9] “Wal-Mart’s political spending hits new levels in California,” Associated Press, October 26, 2004.