Conrad Nicholson Hilton, Sr.

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Conrad Nicholson Hilton, Sr.

Birthplace: San Antonio, Socorro County, New Mexico Territory (present New Mexico), United States
Death: Died in Santa Monica, Los Angeles County, California, United States
Cause of death: Pneumonia
Place of Burial: Dallas, Dallas County, Texas, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of August Halvorsen Hilton and Mary Genevieve Hilton
Husband of <private> Hilton (Kelly)
Ex-husband of Zsa Zsa Gabor and Mary Adelaide Hilton
Father of <private> Hilton; Francesca Hilton; Nicky Hilton; <private> Hilton and <private> Hilton
Brother of Felice A. Brown; Eva C. Hilton; Carl H. Hilton; Julian Hilton; Rosemary J. Hilton and 2 others

Occupation: Hotelier
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Conrad Nicholson Hilton, Sr.

Conrad Nicholson Hilton was a business owner and founder of the Hilton Hotels chain. The son of a local businessman, Hilton took over his father's general store at the age of 21. He then branched out into politics, serving two terms in the New Mexico State Legislature.

Hilton served in the U.S. Army during World War I. After the war, he returned to San Antonio for a while, but then moved to Texas to seek his fortune. He wanted to buy a bank, but ended up buying the Mobley Hotel in Cisco. Soon he added more hotels in the state.

Despite suffering a huge financial setback during the Great Depression, Hilton was able to build a hotel empire. He believed that each property should have its own style, not look like a part of a chain. He formed the Hilton Hotels Corporation in 1946. Properties in his hotel chain included the famed Waldorf-Astoria in New York City, which he leased in 1949. Around this time, Hilton began to expand his operations outside of the United States and renamed the company. The Hilton International Company became one of the largest hotel businesses in the world. The company expanded its operations into credit cards, car rentals, and other services. Hilton passed the reins of the company to his son Barron in 1960s, but he stayed on as the chairman of the board.

Married three times, Hilton had three sons—Conrad Nicholson, Jr., William Barron, and Eric Michael—with his first wife Mary Barron. The couple married in 1925 and divorced nine years later. In 1942, he married Hungarian actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, and together they had a daughter named Francesca. That marriage ended in 1946. Thirty years later, he married Mary Frances Kelly.

Conrad Hilton died on January 3, 1979, at St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, California. He is interred at Calvary Hill Cemetery, a Catholic cemetery in Dallas, Texas. He left US$500,000 each to two of his surviving siblings and US$10,000 to each of his nieces and nephews and his daughter Francesca. The bulk of his estate was left to the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, which he established in 1944.

Conrad's son, Barron, contested the will, which resulted in a negotiated settlement with the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation in 1989. Under the settlement the parties agreed to divide the disputed shares of stock into three parts: Barron Hilton would receive 4 million shares, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation would receive 3.5 million shares, and the remaining 6 million shares would be placed in the W. Barron Hilton Charitable Remainder Unitrust. Upon Barron Hilton's death, Unitrust assets will be transferred to the Hilton Foundation.

He is remembered as a giant in the hotel business and for his lasting impact on the hospitality industry. His foundation awards an annual prize to exemplary organizations that work to end suffering in the world. It also supports programs for the blind and the homeless as well as education initiatives.

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Conrad Nicholson Hilton, Sr.'s Timeline

December 25, 1887
San Antonio, Socorro County, New Mexico Territory (present New Mexico), United States
July 6, 1926
Age 38
Dallas, TX, USA
March 10, 1947
Age 59
New York, New York County, New York, United States