William T. Dillard

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William T. Dillard
Born William Thomas Dillard
(1914-09-02)September 2, 1914
Mineral Springs, Arkansas
Died February 8, 2002(2002-02-08) (aged 87)
Little Rock, Arkansas
Cause of death Heart failure
Resting place Roselawn Memorial Park, Little Rock, Arkansas
Alma mater University of Arkansas; Columbia University
Occupation President, Chairman & CEO at Dillard's (1938–1998)
Known for Founder of Dillard's
Successor William T. Dillard II
Spouse(s) Alexa Latimer (m. June 9, 1940)
Children 5

William Thomas Dillard (September 2, 1914 – February 8, 2002) was an American businessman.[1] He was the founder of the Dillard's Department Stores chain.[1][2][3]

Early life[edit]

William T Dillard was born on September 2, 1914, to Thomas J. Dillard and Hattie Mae Gibson Dillard, both grocers.[2] Dillard found employment with Sears & Roebuck Company where he gained experience in retail business.[1] He graduated from the University of Arkansas with a degree in Business Administration and earned a Master's Degree from Columbia University.[1][2][3] He was a member of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity.[1]


Dillard returned to Arkansas and opened his first retail store in 1938 in the town of Nashville, Arkansas, after he borrowed US$8,000 from his father to sign the lease and install shelves, and stocking those shelves with merchandise supplied on generous credit, extended on the basis of wholesalers' long dealings with his father.[2][3] In 1948, he sold his Nashville store and opened stores in Texas, followed by more stores across the Southern United States.[3] In 1964, he opened his first store in a mall in Austin, Texas, and foreshadowed the boom of malls.[3] In 1965, he opened more stores in malls in Little Rock, Arkansas and Tulsa, Oklahoma.[2] He used computerized checkouts to track inventory.[3] By the turn of the century, Dillard's Department Stores was the third largest department store chain in the United States.[2] He retired in 1998.[1] His eldest son, William T. Dillard II, took over as CEO and his second son, Alex Dillard, as President.[3] His daughter, Drue Corbusier and Denise Mahaffy, and a third son, Mike Dillard, serve as Vice Presidents.[3]

Personal life and death[edit]

Dillard married Alexa Latimer on June 9, 1940, and they had five children.[2] He was an Episcopalian, and a Republican.[1] He died at his home in Little Rock on February 8, 2002, at the age of 87 from heart failure.[1][2][3]