H. L. Hunt

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H. L. Hunt
H. L. Hunt (American oil magnate, 1965).jpg
From print ad for Hunt's 1965 book Hunt for Truth: A Timely Collection of the Stimulating Daily Newspaper Columns of H. L. Hunt.
Haroldson Lafayette Hunt Jr.

(1889-02-17)February 17, 1889
DiedNovember 29, 1974(1974-11-29) (aged 85)
OccupationPetroleum industry
Spouse(s)Lyda Bunker
Frania Tye
Ruth Ray
Children15, including Lamar Hunt
RelativesLamar Hunt Jr. (grandson)
Clark Hunt (grandson)

Haroldson Lafayette Hunt Jr. (February 17, 1889 – November 29, 1974) was an American oil tycoon and Republican political activist.[2] 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 his death, he was reputed to have the highest net worth of any individual in the world.


Hunt was born near Ramsey, in Carson Township, Fayette County, Illinois, the youngest of eight children.[2] He was named after his father, Haroldson Lafayette Hunt, who was a prosperous farmer-entrepreneur. His mother was Ella Rose (Myers) Hunt.

Hunt was homeschooled. He did not go to elementary school or to high school. Later, he said that education is an obstacle to making money.[3] As a teenager, Hunt traveled to different places before he settled 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 after he had gambled 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 by informing him of rumors of a massive oil field to the south, in East Texas. In negotiations over cheese and crackers, at the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas, with the wild-catter who discovered the East Texas Oil Field "Dad" Joiner, Hunt secured title to what was the largest known oil deposit in the world and agreed to pay only $1,000,000 and to protect Joiner from liability for his many fraudulent transactions surrounding the property. In 1957, Fortune estimated that Hunt had a fortune of $400-700 million,[4] and was one of the eight richest people in the United States. J. Paul Getty, who was considered 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."[5]

Personal life[edit]

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.[6] His seven children by her were: Margaret (1915–2007), Haroldson ("Hassie," 1917–2005), Caroline (1923–2018), 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, Herbert 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 by 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.[7] Her four children by Hunt were: Howard (born 1926), Haroldina (1928), Helen (1930), and Hugh ("Hue," 1934). Frania Tye Lee died in 2002.[8]

Hunt supported and had children by Ruth Ray of Shreveport, Louisiana, whom he had 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).[9] His youngest son, Ray Lee, ultimately inherited the business and was a major supporter of President George W. Bush.

His 15 children in birth order are:

  1. Margaret Hunt Hill (October 19, 1915 – June 14, 2007): philanthropist and co-owner of Hunt Petroleum.
  2. H. L. "Hassie" Hunt III (November 23, 1917 – April 20, 2005): diagnosed with schizophrenia in the early 1940s; co-owner of Hunt Petroleum.
  3. Caroline Rose Hunt (January 8, 1923 – November 13, 2018): Founder and Honorary Chairman of Rosewood Hotels & Resorts which operates The Mansion on Turtle Creek.
  4. Lyda Bunker Hunt (February 19, 1925 – March 20, 1925) (Died as an infant).
  5. 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 [10] of Thoroughbred racehorses.
  6. Howard Lee Hunt (October 25, 1926 – October 13, 1975)
  7. Haroldina Franch Hunt (October 26, 1928 – November 10, 1995)
  8. William Herbert Hunt (born March 6, 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.
  9. Helen Lee Cartledge Hunt (October 28, 1930 – June 3, 1962) died in the Air France Flight 007 disaster, the worst single aircraft disaster up until that time.
  10. 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".
  11. Hugh S. Hunt (October 14, 1934 – November 12, 2002): lived in Potomac, Maryland, founder of Constructivist Foundation.
  12. Ray Lee Hunt (born c. 1943): chairman of Hunt Oil.
  13. June Hunt (born c. 1944): host of a daily religious radio show, Hope for the Heart.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.

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.[11]

After marriage to Ruth Ray, Hunt became a Baptist and was a member of the First Baptist Church of Dallas.[12] He was a major financial contributor toward the establishment of the conservative Christian evangelical Criswell College in Dallas.

After several months at Baylor Hospital in Dallas, Hunt died at age 85,[13][14] and was buried in its Sparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery.

The founder of the "transcendental black metal" band Liturgy, Hunter Hunt-Hendrix, is his grandchild.[15]

Hunt connection to white supremacy[edit]

Multiple sources, among them American civil rights icon Malcolm X, implicate Hunt as a lifelong racist who provided major financial assistance to several far-right organizations including the Minutemen and the John Birch Society. Hunt considered African Americans as a political threat and made this clear in his radio interviews and broadcasts.[16] One of Hunt’s chief allies, Alfred Zoll, indicated that since 1936 Hunt advocated deporting all African Americans to Africa. For this reason, Hunt supplied Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad, with continuous financial support due to Elijah Muhammad’s belief in racial separation from whites. [17]

In 1965, Hunt encouraged Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace, a white supremacist, to use the scheme of running his wife, Lurleen Wallace, for election as governor in a bald effort to subvert the state's constitutional rule that a governor could not succeed himself.[18]

JFK conspiracy allegations[edit]

Madeleine Duncan Brown, an advertising executive who claimed to have had both an extended love affair and a son with President Lyndon B. Johnson, said that she was present at a party at the Dallas home of Clint Murchison Sr. (another oil tycoon), on the evening prior to the assassination of John F. Kennedy that was attended by Johnson as well as other famous, wealthy, and powerful individuals including Hunt, Murchison, J. Edgar Hoover, and Richard Nixon.[19]

According to Brown, Johnson had a meeting with several of the men after which he told her: "After tomorrow, those goddamn Kennedys will never embarrass me again. That's no threat. That's a promise."[19][nb 1] Brown's story received national attention and became part of at least a dozen John F. Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Brown provided a similar account on A Current Affair stating: "On the day of the assassination, not but a couple of hours prior to the assassination, he said that John Kennedy would never embarrass him again and that wasn't a threat – that was a promise."[20]


  1. ^ 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
  2. ^ a b Ford, Robert E. (November 30, 1974). "H.L. Hunt, among world's riches, dies". St. Petersburg Times. (Florida). Associated Press. p. 1A.
  3. ^ YouTube video: political television program "Владыки без масок. Игрок на Олимпе" ("Lords without masks. Player on Olympus"), Soviet Union, 1970
  4. ^ http://www.measuringworth.com/uscompare/
  5. ^ Lohr, Steve (August 20, 1981). "Books of the Times". The New York Times. Retrieved June 13, 2012.
  6. ^ Brown, pp. 40 & 191.
  7. ^ Brown, pp. 78–79 & 156–157.
  8. ^ Burrough, p. 437.
  9. ^ Brown, pp. 192–193.
  10. ^ Nelson Bunker Hunt biography Archived 2015-09-23 at the Wayback Machine, National Thoroughbred Racing Association.
  11. ^ Palmer, Jerrell Dean: Hunt, Haroldson Lafayette from the Handbook of Texas Online. Retrieved October 24, 2009. Texas State Historical Association
  12. ^ https://www.texasmonthly.com/articles/h-l-hunts-long-goodbye/amp/
  13. ^ "Billionaire H.L. Hunt". Lewiston Morning Tribune. (Idaho). Associated Press. November 30, 1974. p. 1A.
  14. ^ Weil, Martin (November 30, 1974). "Billionaire Hunt succumbs". Victoria Advocate. (Texas). (Washington Post). p. 1A.
  15. ^ https://www.dmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/media/MediaManager/hunt_tree_lr.pdf
  16. ^ Washington Post, May 6, 1967, p. E-15, July 2, 1967, Jan 30, 1975, p. B7.
  17. ^ Hakim Jamal, From the Dead Level, p. 247-248; Louis Lomax, To Kill a Black Man, p. 108-109; Karl Evanzz, The Judas Factor, p. 284-286, The Messenger, p. 303.
  18. ^ Carter, Dan T. (1995). The politics of rage : George Wallace, the origins of the new conservatism, and the transformation of American politics. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 273. ISBN 0-684-80916-8. OCLC 32739924.
  19. ^ a b c Aynesworth, Hugh (November 17, 2012). "'One-man truth squad' still debunking JFK conspiracy theories". The Dallas Morning News. Dallas. Retrieved February 6, 2013.
  20. ^ "Celebrity". Boston Herald. Boston. February 24, 1992. p. 015. Retrieved February 6, 2013.


  • Brown, S.H. (1976) H. L. Hunt Playboy Press: Chicago.
  • Burrough, B. (2010) The Big Rich: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Texas Oil Fortunes (The Penguin Press: New York.) ISBN 9780143116820.

Further reading[edit]

  • 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.
  • Aug 1966 Playboy magazine interviewed H.L. Hunt. It can be collected in the game Mafia 3 on Ps4 and read in its entirety.

External links[edit]