John Walton, mostly known as the 11th richest man in the world, died yesterday piloting an experimental aircraft.
Wal-Mart Heir John Walton Dies in Crash
By MELISSA NELSON, Associated Press Writer
Wal-Mart heir John T. Walton, who threw his considerable financial support behind efforts to educate low-income children, has died in the crash of a homemade, experimental aircraft.
Walton, of Jackson, Wyo., crashed shortly after takeoff Monday from Jackson Hole Airport in Grand Teton National Park, the company said. The cause of the crash was not known and will be investigated, officials said. Walton was 58.
"I think all you can say is he was just a good man and today, you grieve," Jay Allen, Wal-Mart senior vice president of corporate affairs, told The Morning News of Springdale.
Walton, one of three sons of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton and a member of the company's board, was a major advocate of school vouchers, supporting efforts to create taxpayer-funded ways for students to attend private schools.
Walton founded the Children's Scholarship Fund in 1998 to provide low-income families with money to send their children to private schools. The foundation started with $67 million from the Walton Family Foundation and benefited more than 67,000 children.
In March, Forbes magazine listed John Walton as No. 11 on its list of the world's richest people with a net worth of $18.2 billion. He was tied with his brother Jim, one spot behind his brother Rob, and just ahead of his sister, Alice, and his mother, Helen.
"I certainly have nothing negative to say about the man at all. He was a prince," said Walton's former wife, Washington County Circuit Judge Mary Ann Gunn. "He loved to build things. He loved motorcycles. He built his own motorcycle."
The plane he died flying was an experimental ultralight aircraft with a small, gasoline-powered engine and wings wrapped in fabric similar to heavy-duty sail cloth, officials said.
Joan Anzelmo, a spokeswoman for Grand Teton National Park, said rangers will investigate the crash, as is done with any major accident in the park. She said officials also notified the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board.
"Because this is a homemade, non-registered, experimental aircraft, at least today they told us there was not going to an investigation," she said.
She said Walton, "well-known and much-loved in this valley, died doing something that he loved to do."...
But what you may not know (and probably Charlie Rangel does not know) is that John Walton left Wooster College to volunteer for Viet Nam. But he didn't just volunteer for combat duty, he volunteered several times to be a Paratrooper and Special Forces Medic. He was assigned to Military Assistance Command - Vietnam - Studies and Observations Group (MAC-V-SOG).
Suffice it to say that many of the veterans of the SOG trained the next generation to fight the next wars in El Salvador, Panama, and Iraq. The men of MAC-V-SOG were my heroes. You can learn a bit more about MAC-V-SOG here.
In the extended section is an account of what actions John Walton did under fire to receive the Silver Star.