Richard Kinder was born in Cape Girardeau, Missouri in 1944. He received a B.A. in 1966 and a J.D. in 1968, both from the University of Missouri. In college, he was a member of the Sigma Nu fraternity.
He began his career in the energy business as an attorney with Florida Gas Transmission, which eventually became Enron Corporation, after a series of mergers He had been friends with its founder, Kenneth Lay, in college. From 1990 to December 1996, he served as its President and COO. He resigned from Enron in 1996 to start a new pipeline company with college friend William V. Morgan, . They purchased Enron Liquids Pipeline for $40 million. They also merged with KN Energy. After a number of acquisitions, most prominently El Paso Corporation, Kinder Morgan became the largest midstream energy company in North America.
He is a life trustee of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and serves as Chairman of the Kinder Foundation. He previously served as a member of the board of Baker Hughes, Transocean and Waste Management, as a national board member of the Smithsonian Institution and is a past Chairman of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America. A Republican, he campaigned for Bush-Quayle in 1992, for Bush-Cheney in 2004, for John McCain in 2008, and for Kay Bailey Hutchison and Tom DeLay.
In 2014, Kinder was listed on Forbes Richest People in America. Kinder is one of the seven self-made billionaires from Houston on the list, with a net worth of $11 billion. As such, he is the 41st richest American citizen.
The Kinders founded the Kinder Foundation in an effort to support education and the Greater Houston area by promoting preservation and accessibility to parks and green space. Through the foundation, Kinder donated $15 million to Rice University in 2010 to establish the Kinder Institute for Urban Research.
In October 2013, it was announced that the foundation would give $50 million to the Houston Parks Board for the Bayou Greenways 2020 Project, which connects greenspaces along Houston's bayous and creates parkland.
In 2014, the Kinder Foundation made possible the Kinder Forum on Constitutional Democracy at the University of Missouri , a new program to support excellence in the teaching and study of American constitutional and democratic traditions.
- Kinder Morgan biography
- BusinessWeek profile
- Daniel Gilbert, Miguel Bustillo, 'Richard Kinder: New Energy Patch King', in The Wall Street Journal, October 18, 2011 
- Shira Ovide, 'Richard Kinder: The Luckiest Ex-Enron Employee', in The Wall Street Journal, October 17, 2011 
- NNBD profile
- Forbes profile 2011
- Pulsinelli, Olivia. "13 Houstonians make Forbes' list of richest Americans — and half are self-made billionaires". Houston Business Journal. Retrieved 10 October 2014.
- Kroll, Luisa; Dolan, Kerry A. "Inside The 2014 Forbes 400: Facts And Figures About America's Wealthiest". Forbes. Retrieved 10 October 2014.
- The Forbes 400: The Richest People in America
- 'Rich Kinder is Houston’s richest person, Forbes says', in Houston Business Journal, September 22, 2011 
- "Rice announces the Kinder Institute for Urban Research". Rice University. Retrieved 18 November 2013.
- "Major Gifts". Kinder Foundation. Retrieved 18 November 2013.
- Pugh, Clifford. "Green for greenspace: Rich and Nancy Kinder donate $50 million to ambitious bayou parks plan". Culture Map Houston. Retrieved 18 November 2013.