Richest People in History H.L. Hunt

About oilman H.L. Hunt, history, biography and worth of one of the richest men in history.

RICHEST PEOPLE OF ALL TIME

H. L. HUNT

Haroldson Lafayette Hunt began his extraordinary life on Feb. 17, 1889, on a farm in Ramsey, Ill., outside of Vandalia. Youngest of eight children born to a Confederate Army veteran and the daughter of a Union Army chaplain, H. L. was able to read by age three and was beating his older siblings at card games before he was ten.

At 16 he left home and made his way west by harvesting crops, felling trees, and working on the railroad. At 22 he inherited $6,000 from his father's estate, with which he purchased a cotton plantation in Arkansas. Although modestly successful--he eventually owned 15,000 acres in Arkansas and Louisiana--Hunt was wiped out when the agricultural depression of the early 1920s destroyed land and crop prices. It would be the last time he was without great wealth.

At the same time that farm prices were collapsing, Hunt heard rumors of an oil strike in El Dorado, Ark, Arriving in 1921, Hunt allegedly won his first oil well in a game of five-card stud; it proved to be a gusher, and four years later he was a millionaire. As he hit more successful strikes, his wealth grew in multiples, and by 1936 his newly established Hunt Oil Company ranked as the largest independent producer of oil and natural gas in the U.S.

Hunt built an enormous mansion, duplicating Mt. Vernon though on a much larger scale, outside of Dallas, but he himself displayed no ostentation whatsoever. He drove an old car to work, carried his lunch in a brown bag, and wore inexpensive clothing. During the last two decades of his life, he gave full vent to his extreme anti-communist dogma, communicating his rightwing views via radio, television, and his own newspaper column. He even wrote a utopian novel, Alpaca, which provided a vehicle for his most publicized political panacea--citizen voting power weighted in proportion to the amount of taxes the person paid. His long life ended in Dallas after a bout with pneumonia on Nov. 29, 1974.

How Much?

Hunt's weekly income from the 1930s until his death was estimated at a comfortable $1 million. No philanthropist--disappointing even those right-wing politicians who sought subsidies from him--Hunt accumulated and accumulated until the best guesses at his fortune put it somewhere between $2 billion and $3 billion.

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