John D. MacArthur

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John D. MacArthur
Born John Donald MacArthur
(1897-03-06)March 6, 1897
Pittston, Pennsylvania
Died January 6, 1978(1978-01-06) (aged 80)
Abacoa, Florida
Occupation businessman and philanthropist
Known for John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
Spouse(s) Louise Ingals
Catherine T. MacArthur (1928 – his death)
Children J. Roderick MacArthur
Virginia MacArthur
Relatives Charles MacArthur (brother)
Helen Hayes (sister-in-law)
James MacArthur (nephew)

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] MacArthur and his many brothers and sisters grew up in poverty, the children of an itinerant Baptist preacher and his resourceful wife. MacArthur's brother Charles MacArthur was an American playwright and screenwriter, best known as co-author of the play The Front Page. MacArthur's sister-in-law was the esteemed actress Helen Hayes.

Career in Illinois[edit]

MacArthur made his fortune in the insurance business; in 1935, he acquired the Bankers Life and Casualty Company for $2,500. In subsequent years, he built up a business empire through acquisitions of many small insurance corporations. In the 1950s, MacArthur signed famed broadcaster Paul Harvey to be the radio spokesperson for the company.

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 that had been owned originally by Harry Seymor Kelsey and later by Sir Harry Oakes. The land 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 both the Atlantic Ocean and the Lake Worth Lagoon.[2]

Marriages and family[edit]

MacArthur first married the former Louise Ingals 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 intimately involved herself for decades in management of his companies and for whom his charitable foundation is co-named.

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], the company was sold after MacArthur's death by the foundation he created. Bankers Life is today a leader in long term care insurance in the U.S. The company is today publicly held with a capitalization of approximately $6 billion. It is a subsidiary of the CNO Financial Group (NYSE: CNO).

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


  • Hoffman, William (1969). The Stockholder. Lyle Stuart.  Biography of John MacArthur.
  • Kriplen, Nancy (2008). The Eccentric Billionaire: John D. MacArthur. Amacom Books. ISBN 978-0-8144-0889-6.  Biography of John MacArthur: Empire builder, reluctant philanthropist, relentless adversary.
  • McGoun, William E., Southeast Florida Pioneers: The Palm and Treasure Coasts, 1998, Sarasota: Pineapple Press, chapter 27. Compares the lives of MacArthur and Arthur Vining Davis, another heavy investor in Florida real estate.
  • Kosar, Kevin R. The Reluctant Philanthropist: John D. MacArthur. The American, February 13, 2008.

External links[edit]