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Rags to Riches! - July 5, 2019

Q: He went from living at Lone Star Trailer Court in Pittsburg, Kansas, to leading one of the world's largest retail companies. What's the name of the man who was born in Baxter Springs, graduated from Pittsburg State University and later became president and CEO of Wal-Mart? 

A: H. Lee Scott, Jr. (or Lee Scott)

H. Lee Scott, Jr. (“Lee”) was born in 1949 and raised in Baxter Springs, in southeast Kansas. According to the Kansas Business Hall of Fame, which inducted Scott this year (2019), Scott graduated from Baxter Springs High School in 1967, then went to Pittsburg State University. It was during this time in Pittsburg that he met his future wife, Linda Aldridge, a Kansas City native. While attending PSU, Scott, his wife and their small son lived in the Lone Star Trailer Court. After graduating from Pitt State in 1971 with a degree in business, Scott gained employment in nearby Springdale, Arkansas, with Yellow Freight.  

It was while working as a salesperson and manager with Yellow Freight that Scott had a chance encounter with David Glass, who would later become CEO of Wal-Mart. Glass was impressed by Scott and offered him a job. Scott declined. A couple years later, Glass tried to hire Scott again. This time it worked. Scott accepted the offer and began a 25-year career with Wal-Mart. He worked his way up the corporate ladder and in 2003, he was named President and CEO of Wal-Mart Stores, the largest company (by sales) in the history of the world. Lee was just the third person selected to lead the company, following founder Sam Walton and David Glass. Along the way, he became a billionaire. 

Following his retirement in 2009, Scott continued to use his success in business by giving back to his community and the area that was instrumental to his business career. After Pittsburg State University received a $5 million donation from the Walton Foundation in honor of Lee’s dedication and service to Wal-Mart, the Scott family itself gave more than $2 million to create an endowment for the H. Lee Scott speaker series at Pitt State.  
In 2018, Scott received the Horatio Alger Award bestowed upon “admired leaders who have succeeded despite facing adversities, and who have remained committed to higher education and charitable efforts in their local communities."

In June of this year (2019), Lee Scott was inducted into the Kansas Business Hall of Fame, based at Emporia State University.  ####

Check out more Kansas Trivia in KPR's online archive!

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