This is the grave of H.L. Hunt.
Born in 1889 in Ramsey, Illinois, Haroldson Lafayette Hunt grew up as the son of a well-off farmer who did not believe in public schooling. In fact, this family became noted for horrible political beliefs. Hunt was homeschooled and became something of a math prodigy. He was a smart kid, no question. He also came to believe that formal education was worthless and that children were better off without it. He left home as a teenager and became a big time gambler. This was how to use that math. He was running a cotton plantation in Arkansas by 1912. There’s a story–possibly true but who really knows–that after the plantation got flooded out, Hunt was down to $100. He went to New Orleans and played the tables and won $100,000.
Again, who knows, but he became a very, very rich man. And this was not good for the world. Hunt went into the oil business, already becoming a place for the very worst kind of entrepreneur, one that would combine far-right politics with extreme individualism and the culture of the southern Plains. Hunt started investing his money into oil finds and he struck it rich in Texas after first investing mostly back in Arkansas. Mostly, he was a deal maker. In the 1930s, Columbus Joiner struck it rich with the East Texas Oil Field. He did this through all sorts of sketchy questionable property rights violations. There were huge legal considerations here. So Joiner and Hunt made a deal. Hunt would take it over, pay Joiner $1 million, and then take care of all the legal stuff. This made Hunt one of the richest men in the United States. By 1957, Fortune estimated he could have up to $700 million.
Now, Hunt could have just been a rich guy. But no, he was a rich right-wing lunatic, a conspiracy theorist and stone cold racist. In truth, Hunt is one of the worst Americans to ever live and that’s a high bar, as this series as long shown. Hunt was a major funder of right-wing causes. That included the John Birch Society. He really wanted Douglas MacArthur to run for president in 1952 to destroy the left, the Chinese, the Soviets, the Democrats, and everyone else Hunt hated. He funded a movement to draft MacArthur after Truman fired the general for insubordination. Another thing he funded was something called the International Committee for the Defense of Christian Culture, which was intended to be a sort of Christian international intelligence network. He also worked closely with the mafia and CIA on attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro.
Hunt created a radio and TV program called Facts Forum where he could go on the air and talk about communism, how the civil rights movement was communist, how the Democrats were actually communists, how there was a world conspiracy of communism to destroy America, how Democrats were part of that world conspiracy, and of course, that the Jews were at the center of it all. Thus, he and Joe McCarthy became good buddies. Hunt invited McCarthy to Dallas in 1952 and they joined forces to rid the nation of communists. He was finally forced to pull Facts Forum off the air in 1956 since the government was curious about how this was an educational non-profit that didn’t have to pay taxes. A lot of McCarthy’s aides ended up with Hunt on the show.
Hunt’s racism was so well known that he had a relationship with Elijah Muhammad. He funded the Nation of Islam based on the principle of the separation of the races. This isn’t the first situation like this–Marcus Garvey worked with the Ku Klux Klan in the 20s based on the same principles. At least since 1936, Hunt had openly advocated for shipping all Black Americans to Africa. Hunt also stated openly that slavery was great for Africans and that life for them in the U.S. was easy and nice compared to their savagery of Africa.
Hunt later became close with George Wallace. Supposedly, it was Hunt who came up with the scheme for George to run Lurleen for governor of Alabama in 1966 when he was barred from reelection due to term limits. Naturally, Hunt was a total anti-Semite on top of it, as his legendary show made clear to anyone unfortunate enough to run across it. He also fought hard against even European immigration, thinking that anyone who escaped a communist country to come to the U.S. was actually bringing communism with them as part of the conspiracy to destroy America.
Hunt later became caught up in Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories, based on a supposed overheard conversation the night before the assassination that Hunt was going to get his enemy once and for all. For as terrible as Hunt was, this is total hokum. The roots of this was JFK trying to change the law so that Hunt would actually have to pay income tax. That part is true enough. Hunt definitely hated JFK for that. He also hated JFK for being a Catholic. When a right-wing preacher in Dallas gave a sermon that stated “the election of a Catholic as president would mean the end of religious freedom in America,” Hunt printed 200,000 copies of it and sent it to Protestant churches across America to stop the horror of the Papists.
Hunt also wrote fiction. It’s not really any worse than Ayn Rand‘s, though it’s less read. It’s basically the same thing though. He wrote a novel called Alpaca, which follows a young man as he discovers the secret to a perfect society–low taxes under a dictatorship that had a few trappings of democracy but not really. It has such brilliant literary lines as “Big taxes encourage overbearing and despoiling government, and government has been and always will be destructive to human liberty.” OK. Also, in this paradise, while everyone had the right to vote, you would get more votes if you are rich and the super rich–a la H.L. Hunt–would get so many votes they could basically control the nation. Another line in this fine, fine book: “The grant of additional voting power to those who pay a larger part of the taxes is prompted by the logic that the citizen’s sense of responsibility rises in direct ratio with his contribution to the nation.” Well then.
Hunt was married three times. Two of these were at the same time. He had an entire secret family and yet was legally married to two women. Nothing as moral as bigamy. He had fifteen children. He had the oldest son lobotomized. Two other children tried to corner the entire global silver market. Howard became the founder of the Kansas City Chiefs. Others are Republican operatives. Great family.
Hunt had an open goal to set the all time world record for longevity. Mercifully, he did not succeed. He died in 1974, at the age of 85. There’s plenty more to say about this horrifying human being, but I will stop here.
H.L. Hunt is buried in Sparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery, Dallas, Texas.
If you would like this series to visit other far right figures, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Father Coughlin is in Southfield, Michigan and William Dudley Pelley is in Noblesville, Indiana. Previous posts in this series are archived here.