H. L. Hunt
|H. L. Hunt|
Haroldson Lafayette Hunt, Jr.
|Born||Haroldson Lafayette Hunt, Jr.
February 17, 1889
|Died||November 29, 1974
|Other names||H. L. Hunt|
|Net worth||USD $1 billion at the time of his death (approximately 1/1474th of US GNP)|
Haroldson Lafayette "H. L." Hunt, Jr. (February 17, 1889 – November 29, 1974), known throughout his life as H. L. Hunt, was a Texas oil tycoon and conservative Republican political activist. By trading poker winnings for oil rights, he ultimately secured title to much of the East Texas Oil Field, one of the world's largest oil deposits. From it and his other acquisitions, he accrued a fortune that was among the world's largest; at the time of his death, he was reputed to have the highest net worth of any individual in the world. His personal life, which featured many children by three wives, was among the chief inspirations for the television series Dallas, whose character J.R. Ewing was largely based on popular perceptions of Hunt. The Texas city of Hunt is named after him.
Hunt was born near Ramsey, in Carson Township, Fayette County, Illinois, the youngest of eight children. He was named after his father, Haroldson Lafayette Hunt, who was a prosperous farmer-entrepreneur; his mother was Ella Rose (Myers) Hunt.
Hunt was educated at home. As a teenager, Hunt traveled to various places before settling in Arkansas, where he was running a cotton plantation by 1912. He had a reputation as a math prodigy and was a gambler. It was said that after his cotton plantation was flooded, he turned his last $100 into more than $100,000, gambling in New Orleans. With his winnings, he purchased oil properties in the neighborhood of El Dorado, Arkansas. He was generous to his employees, who in turn were loyal to him, informing him of rumors of a massive oil field to the south, in East Texas — the East Texas Oil Field. In negotiations over cheese and crackers, at the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas, with the charlatan who discovered the field--"Dad" Joiner—Hunt secured title to what was then the largest known oil deposit in the world, having agreed to pay only $1,000,000, and protect Mr. Joiner from liability for his many fraudulent transactions surrounding the property. In 1957 Fortune estimated that Hunt had a fortune of between U.S. $400 million and $700 million ($4.5 billion in 2011, adjusted for inflation), and was one of the eight richest people in the United States. J. Paul Getty, who was considered at the time to be the richest private citizen in the world, said of Hunt: "In terms of extraordinary, independent wealth, there is only one man: H.L. Hunt."
Hunt had fifteen children by three wives.
He married Lyda Bunker of Lake Village, Arkansas in November 1914, and remained married to her until her death in 1955. His seven children by her were: Margaret (1915-2007), Haroldson (“Hassie,” 1917-2005), Caroline (1923), Lyda (born and died in 1925), Nelson Bunker (1926-2014), William Herbert (1929), and Lamar (1932-2006). Their home on White Rock Lake in Dallas was styled after Mount Vernon though much larger.
His first son, Hassie, who was expected to succeed him in control of the family business, was lobotomized in response to increasingly erratic behavior. He outlived his father. Lamar founded the American Football League and created the Super Bowl, drawing on the assistance of his children in selecting the game's name. Two other children, William and Bunker, are famous for their purchasing much of the world's silver, in an attempt to corner the market. They ultimately owned more silver than any government in the world, before their scheme was discovered and undone. Bunker Hunt was briefly one of the wealthiest men in the world, having discovered and taken title to the Libyan oil fields, before Muammar Gaddafi nationalized the properties.
While still married to Lyda, H. L. Hunt is said to have married Frania Tye of Tampa, Florida in November 1925, using the name Franklin Hunt. Frania claimed to have discovered the bigamous nature of her marriage in 1934, and in a legal settlement in 1941, Hunt created trust funds for each of their four children and she signed a document stipulating that no legal marriage between them had ever existed. About the same time, she briefly married then divorced Hunt’s employee, John Lee, taking the last name Lee for herself and her four children. Her four children by Hunt were: Howard (born 1926), Haroldina (1928), Helen (1930), and Hugh (“Hue,” 1934). Frania Tye Lee died in 2002.
Hunt supported and had children by Ruth Ray of Shreveport, Louisiana, whom he met when she was a secretary in his Shreveport office. They married in 1957 after the death of Hunt’s wife Lyda. His four children by her were: Ray (born 1943), June (1944), Helen (1949), and Swanee (1950). His youngest son, Ray Lee, ultimately inherited the business, and was a major supporter of President George W. Bush.
A scandal emerged in 1975, after his death, when it was discovered that he had had a hidden bigamous relationship, with his second wife living in New York. Nonetheless, Hunt was a member of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, and was a major financial contributor toward the establishment of the conservative Christian evangelical Criswell College in Dallas, Texas.
H. L. Hunt died, aged 85, in Dallas, Texas, and was buried in the Sparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery there.
Hunt had three wives and fifteen children:
- Margaret Hunt Hill (October 19, 1915 – June 14, 2007): philanthropist and co-owner of Hunt Petroleum.
- H. L. "Hassie" Hunt III (November 23, 1917 – April 20, 2005): diagnosed with schizophrenia in the early 1940s; co-owner of Hunt Petroleum.
- Caroline Rose Hunt (born January 8, 1923): Founder and Honorary Chairman of Rosewood Hotels & Resorts which operates The Mansion on Turtle Creek.
- Lyda Bunker Hunt (February 19, 1925 – March 20, 1925) (Died as an infant).
- Nelson Bunker Hunt (February 22, 1926 – October 21, 2014): A major force in developing Libyan oil fields. Eventually attempted to corner the world market in silver in 1979, and was convicted of conspiring to manipulate the market. Legendary owner-breeder  of Thoroughbred racehorses.
- Howard Lee Hunt (October 25, 1926 – October 13, 1975)
- Haroldina Franch Hunt (October 26, 1928 – November 10, 1995)
- William Herbert Hunt (born c. 1929) A major and defining force in the oil industry, he was also a legendary businessman and oilman. At times, ran Hunt Oil, Hunt Petroleum, Hunt Energy, Placid Oil, etc. The founder of Petro-Hunt LLC.
- Helen Lee Cartledge Hunt (October 28, 1930 – June 3, 1962)
- Lamar Hunt (August 2, 1932 – December 13, 2006): co-founder of the American Football League and the North American Soccer League; owner of the Kansas City Chiefs of the National Football League; owner of the Columbus Crew and FC Dallas of Major League Soccer; backer of World Championship Tennis; impetus behind 1966 AFL-NFL merger, coined the name "Super Bowl".
- Hugh S. Hunt (October 14, 1934 – November 12, 2002): lived in Potomac, Maryland, founder of Constructivist Foundation.
- Ray Lee Hunt (born c. 1943): chairman of Hunt Oil.
- June Hunt (born c. 1944): host of a daily religious radio show, Hope for the Heart.
- Helen LaKelly Hunt (born c. 1949): a pastoral counselor in Dallas; co-manager of the Hunt Alternatives Fund, one of the family's charitable arms.
- Swanee Hunt (born May 1, 1950): former U.S. ambassador to Austria; now head of the Women and Public Policy Program at the John F. Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and president of Hunt Alternatives Fund.
- List of wealthiest historical figures
- Walter L. Buenger, historian at Texas A&M University in 1994 wrote the Hunt biography in Dictionary of American Biography.
- Klepper, Michael; Gunther, Michael (1996), The Wealthy 100: From Benjamin Franklin to Bill Gates—A Ranking of the Richest Americans, Past and Present, Secaucus, New Jersey: Carol Publishing Group, p. xiii, ISBN 978-0-8065-1800-8, OCLC 33818143
- Lohr, Steve (August 20, 1981). "Books of the Times". The New York Times. Retrieved June 13, 2012.
- Stanley H. Brown, H. L. Hunt (Chicago: Playboy, 1976) 40,191.
- Stanley H. Brown, H. L. Hunt (Chicago: Playboy, 1976) 78-79, 156-157.
- Bryan Burrough, The Big Rich (New York: Penguin, 2009) 437.
- Stanley H. Brown, H. L. Hunt (Chicago: Playboy, 1976) 192-193.
- Palmer, Jerrell Dean: Hunt, Haroldson Lafayette from the Handbook of Texas Online. Retrieved October 24, 2009. Texas State Historical Association
- Nelson Bunker Hunt biography, National Thoroughbred Racing Association.
- Hendershot, Heather. What's Fair on the Air? Cold War Right-Wing Broadcasting and the Public Interest (University of Chicago Press; 2011) 260 pages; covers the rise and fall of prominent far-right radio hosts: H.L. Hunt, Dan Smoot, Carl McIntire, and Billy James Hargis.
- Burrough, Bryan. The Big Rich: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Texas Oil Fortunes (Penguin Books; 2010) 480 pages.
- Hunt Oil
- HL's Grave
- H.L. Hunt's Boys and the Circle K Cowboys
- Hunt Heirs fight over Estate
- Biography of H. L. Hunt by Jerrell Dean Palmer in the Handbook of Texas Online
- A Matter of Trust by Gretel C. Kovach for D Magazine
- Article by BBC filmmaker, author Adam Curtis
- Hunt's FBI files, hosted at the Internet Archive