Barron Hilton joined the Conrad H. Hilton Foundation in 1950 and served as board chair from 2007 to 2012. Following the example of his father, Conrad, he has committed the bulk of his personal fortune to the Foundation. This gift, which surpasses the amount bequeathed by his father, will make Barron Hilton the Foundation’s most significant donor.
Mr. Hilton served in the United States Navy during World War II and was assigned to the base at Pearl Harbor as a photographer’s mate. After his discharge, he earned a twin-engine rating from the University of Southern California’s Aeronautical School, and flying soon became a lifelong passion.
Mr. Hilton began his business career at age 19 by acquiring the Los Angeles area distributorship of Vita-Pakt Citrus Products Co., and in 1956 he helped pioneer the aircraft leasing business by founding the Air Finance Corporation.
In 1960, he founded the Los Angeles Chargers professional football team and one year later moved the franchise to San Diego. In 1966, Mr. Hilton, together with the National Football League owners, forged a merger agreement with the National Football League that resulted in the creation of the Super Bowl.
Mr. Hilton began his career as a hotelier while still a teenager, working as a doorman and in the engineering department at the El Paso Hilton. In 1954 he was elected vice-president of Hilton Hotels and he was named president and chief executive officer in 1966.
Upon his father’s death in 1979, his responsibilities expanded to include chairman. He served as chairman and/or co-chairman from 1996 until the company’s sale and dissolution as a public company in 2007.
As president, he was instrumental in expanding the company’s role in several areas including originating the universal Carte Blanche credit card system and developing the Hilton Inns franchise program, an influential prototype in today’s hospitality industry. He led the way when Hilton Hotels Corporation became the first New York Stock Exchange company to enter the casino gaming industry in 1971.
Mr. Hilton is among the nation’s wealthiest individuals who has signed The Giving Pledge, an initiative launched by Warren Buffett and Melinda and Bill Gates. Through taking The Giving Pledge, Hilton has committed to giving the majority of his wealth to the philanthropic causes and charitable organizations of his choice either during his lifetime or after his death. He stated his reasons for signing The Giving Pledge in this statement.
Pontifical Order of Saint Gregory the Great
Roman Catholic Church
Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters
University of Houston
Hospitality Hall of Honor
University of Houston
Lifetime Achievement Award
Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce
Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree
Loyola Marymount University
Gold Air Medal
Fédération Aéronatique Internationale
Pioneers of Flight Gallery
Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum