Haroldson Lafayette Hunt Jr., popularly known as H.L. Hunt, was an American oil tycoon. He was also a political activist who used his own radio program to promote his conservative political views. He can be called one of the most talented businessmen of his era because he created his huge financial empire from a very small initial investment in oil in Arkansas and later on founded Hunt Oil Company. Hunt also became of the largest independent oil producer and gas supplier of the country. Apart from the oil business, he expanded his wings and invested in producing canned goods, health products, and cosmetics. His fortune was estimated to be between two and three billion dollars at the time of his death, with a weekly income of more than one million. However, despite his success, he was embroiled in various controversies throughout his life, including allegations of being involved in John F Kennedy’s assassination.
- H.L. Hunt was born on February 17, 1889, near Ramsey, Fayette County, Illinois. His father was Haroldson Lafayette Hunt, and his mother was Ella Rose Hunt. He was the youngest amongst eight siblings. He received his primary education at home.Career
- He travelled a lot as a young man and worked in a number of odd jobs. By 1912, he was running a cotton plantation, having settled in Arkansas. During the 1910s he acquired around 15,000 acres of land in Arkansas and Louisiana. He grew cotton and flourished for a while. However, with the end of the World War I, the cotton market collapsed, which led to his cotton lands losing their value.After hearing rumors of an oil strike in El Dorado, Arkansas, he decided to head out there, and began trading in oil leases. Using multiple business tactics, he soon became the owner of several oil producing wells in El Dorado.Hunt continued to drill wells in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana for the rest of the 1920s. He continued doing so till he had 100 producing wells throughout the South and the Southwest.Later, he met C.M. Joiner who had just discovered oil on his 4000 acres in Rusk County Texas. However, he needed capital to drill, which he lacked at that moment. Neither was he in a condition to borrow any, being too much in debt. He even tried to sell his land, but the large oil companies were not interested.Hunt offered C.M. Joiner $30,000 in cash, and $1.2 million in oil when it was produced. Thus, Hunt acquired rights to the greatest oil discovery of that time.Hunt was able to create his own pipeline and he supplied Sinclair Oil Company tank cars with oil of his own. Later, he founded the Hunt Oil Company in 1936, whose headquarters was in Tyler, Texas. It was later moved to Dallas where it became the largest independent oil producer of America.The amount of oil he sold to the Allies during World War II even exceeded the total oil output of Germany. In 1946, in order to help with the critical fuel shortage that year, he supplied 85 percent of the natural gas that was piped into the US.He also showed an interest in politics and founded his own foundation ‘Facts Forum’ in 1951 to counter what he felt was a serious communist menace. He spent around $3.5 million in the organization, which used to produce and distribute radio and television programs of conservative nature as well as distribute patriotic and anti-communist books and pamphlets.Though Hunt suspended the operations of ‘Facts Forum’ in 1956, he revived it two years later as ‘Lifeline’, to distribute a daily 15-minute radio program which was aired by more than 400 radio stations. He also began writing columns for a conservative newspaper in 1964, which was followed by several books dealing with aspects of his conservative ideology.He headed the MacArthur President movement in 1952, where he is rumored to have put up $ 150,000 for the effort. He also supported Lyndon B. Johnson in 1960, though he failed to gain presidential nomination.In 1957, his fortune was established to be between $400 million and $700 million. He was also placed among the eight richest people in America.Major Works
- Hunt was a highly successful businessman who founded the Hunt Oil Company in 1936. Eventually the company became the largest independent oil producer in the United States. Over the years he acquired the rights to much of the East Texas Oil Fields—one of the world's largest oil deposits. His oil businesses, along with his other ventures made him one of the world’s richest men.Alleged Involvement in JFK Assassination
- H.L. Hunt was involved in various controversies, and the most famous one among them was the assassination of John F Kennedy. He is believed to be linked to the assassination because of a number of reasons.Madeleine Duncan Brown, who was supposedly an ex-lover of President Lyndon B Johnson, claimed that she was at a party at the home of Clint Murchison Sr. on the evening prior to the John F. Kennedy assassination. The party was attended not only by Johnson but also other famous individuals like Hunt and Richard Nixon. According to Brown’s claim, Johnson had a meeting with several of the men after which he had told her that the Kennedys would never embarrass him from the following day. He added that it wasn’t just a threat, but a promise. This story received national media attention.It was also widely said that the day before the JFK assassination, Jim Brading, a mafia man with a big arrest record, had come to meet Hunt in his Dallas office. Brading was found to be connected to Carlos Marcello, who was another suspect in the president’s death. Shortly after the killing, Brading was arrested, as he was found to have taken the elevator into the Dal-Tex building just after the shots were fired.However, after a short period of time, he was released. Hunt received much negative publicity due to this association with Brading.Personal Life & Legacy
- H.L. Hunt had three wives and fifteen children. His first wife was Lyda Bunker whom he married in 1914. The couple had seven children. But Hunt was not faithful to her and is said to have married Frania Tye while still married to Lyda. This union produced four children. He also had a relationship with Ruth Ray which resulted in the birth of four more children. Hunt and Ruth got married in 1957.Hunt died on November 29, 1974, at the age of 85.Trivia
- Hunt was believed by people to be quite pretentious and eccentric. While he was introducing himself to strangers, he would sometimes proclaim, “Hello, I am H.L. Hunt, the world’s richest man.”Though he became one of the richest men in the world, there is no published biography available of him.
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Books About H. L. Hunt
H. L. Hunt - A Biography
by Stanley H Brown
The Three Families of H. L. Hunt: The True Story of the Three Wives, Fifteen Children, Countless Millions, and Troubled Legacy of the Richest Man in America
by Ardis Burst
JFK Assassination Ketch-in Up to H.L. Hunt (A Patsy ?) (vol. 3 Oswald's Closest Friend; The George de Mohrenschildt Story)
by Bruce Adamson