Education A National Roundup

Obituary: School Choice Philanthropist John T. Walton Dies

July 12, 2005 1 min read

John T. Walton, a billionaire who donated millions of dollars to provide new educational options for poor children, including private school vouchers, died June 27 in a plane crash in Wyoming. He was 58.

Mr. Walton, an heir to the Wal-Mart Stores Inc. fortune, died in Grand Teton National Park when his ultralight aircraft went down shortly after takeoff from Jackson Hole Airport.

“John was one of the nicest people I have ever met. He was a staunch, unbending warrior in the battle for parental choice,” Howard L. Fuller, an education professor at Marquette University, wrote in a statement posted on the Web sites for the Charter School Leadership Council and the Black Alliance for Educational Options, two advocacy groups he chairs.

Mr. Fuller said he once asked the philanthropist, who played a leading role in the Walton Family Foundation, why he supported the choice movement.

“He said that poor children were getting a raw deal and he wanted to do something about it, and he was in a position to do so,” Mr. Fuller wrote.

Along with Theodore J. Forstmann, Mr. Walton in 1998 founded and supported the Children’s Scholarship Fund, which has provided partial tuition aid for some 67,000 children of low-income families to attend private schools. Mr. Walton also was a generous backer of charter schools and a board member of the California Charter Schools Association.