John D. MacArthur

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John D. MacArthur
John Donald MacArthur

(1897-03-06)March 6, 1897
DiedJanuary 6, 1978(1978-01-06) (aged 80)
OccupationBusinessman, philanthropist
Known forMacArthur Foundation
Spouse(s)Louise Ingals
(m. 19??; div. 1926)
Catherine T. Hyland
(m. 1928; his death 1978)
Children2, including J. Roderick MacArthur
RelativesJohn R. MacArthur (grandson)
Charles MacArthur (brother)
James MacArthur (nephew)
Palmettos at John D. MacArthur Beach State Park - Riviera Beach, Florida

John Donald MacArthur (March 6, 1897 – January 6, 1978) was an American businessman and philanthropist who established the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, benefactor in the MacArthur Fellowships.


Early life[edit]

John Donald MacArthur was born in Pittston, Pennsylvania,[1] as the seventh child. He and his many siblings grew up in poverty, the children of an itinerant Baptist preacher and his resourceful wife. His father went through many evangelical trainings, moving his family all around the country, from New York to Pennsylvania to Illinois. His sister-in-law was the esteemed actress Helen Hayes. His brother, American playwright and Academy Award winning screenwriter Charles MacArthur, co-authored the play The Front Page. John MacArthur dropped out of high school after his first year and became a salesman.

Career in Illinois[edit]

MacArthur made his fortune in the insurance business. He acquired the Bankers Life and Casualty Company in 1935 for $2,500, then went on to build a business empire by acquiring many small insurance corporations. In the 1950s he signed famed broadcaster Paul Harvey as his company's radio spokesperson.

Real estate investments in Florida[edit]

MacArthur also increased his vast fortune by heavily and lucratively investing in Florida real estate. In 1954 for $5.5 million MacArthur bought 2,600 acres (11 km2) of land in northern Palm Beach County originally owned by Harry Seymor Kelsey and later by Sir Harry Oakes. It included most of today's Lake Park, North Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens and Palm Beach Shores.[1] For many years, MacArthur conducted his business affairs from a table in the Colonnades Beach Hotel in Palm Beach Shores, where he and his wife lived in an apartment above the bar, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and the Lake Worth Lagoon.[2]

Marriages and family[edit]

MacArthur first married the former Louise Ingalls and had two children: a son, U.S. businessman and philanthropist J. Roderick MacArthur (1920–1984); and a daughter, Virginia MacArthur. The couple divorced in 1926. In 1928 MacArthur married Catherine T. MacArthur (née Hyland), who for decades intimately involved herself in the management of his companies, and after whom his charitable foundation is co-named. In 1978, he died of pancreatic cancer.[3]

John R. MacArthur, the president of Harper's Magazine and son of J. Roderick MacArthur, is a grandson of John D. MacArthur.


To avoid conflict of interest rules,[which?][specify] MacArthur's company was sold after his death by the foundation he created. The foundation gives away $260 million in grants every year.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b McGoun, William E., Southeast Florida Pioneers: The Palm and Treasure Coasts, 1998, Sarasota: Pineapple Press, p. 167
  2. ^ Lowery, Fred, "Celebrity Days Remembered As Colonnades Hotel Is Razed", South Florida Sun-Sentinel, February 17, 1990
  3. ^ Kleiman, Dena (January 7, 1978). "John D.MacArthur, Billionaire, Dies". The New York Times.

Further reading[edit]

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