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Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management

Labor Hall of Fame Honoree (2008)

John Willard Marriott

John Willard Marriott
1900–1985

"When you take good care of your people, they’ll take pride in their work and take good care of the customers. If you take good care of the customers, they’ll come back, and the business will take care of itself."
— John Willard Marriott

John Willard "Bill" Marriott was born at Marriott Settlement, Utah, on September 17, 1900, the second of eight children of Hyrum Willard Marriott and Ellen Morris Marriott.

While completing his studies at the University of Utah, Marriott hatched plans for starting his first major business, thousands of miles away, in the nation's capital. Bill had passed through hot, muggy Washington, D.C., at the end of his mission and recognized a tailor-made market for A&W Root Beer. He secured the A&W franchise for Washington, D.C. - plus Baltimore and Richmond - and headed east in the spring of 1927. Marriott and partner Hugh Colton pooled $6,000 to buy equipment and rent space for their tiny operation. On May 20, 1927 - the day aviator Charles Lindbergh began his historic transatlantic solo flight - the duo opened their nine-stool root beer stand at 3128 14th Street, NW.

For the next 58 years - until his death in August 1985 - J. Willard Marriott rarely rested. Whether adding locations, perfecting procedures or expanding into new enterprises, Marriott breathed, ate, lived, and dreamed about his business. Even when his older son, J. Willard "Bill" Marriott, Jr., took over most major responsibilities after being named the company's CEO in 1972, the founder could not bring himself to retire. A true hands-on manager, he thoroughly enjoyed visiting Marriott's increasingly far-flung locations, as well as spending time with the ever-growing ranks of associates who - in his eyes - were the secret of his company's success. "Take care of your employees and they'll take care of your customers," he constantly advised Marriott's managers, voicing a deeply held belief that remains the keystone of the company's culture.

The founder's concern for others also extended to church, charity, and country. In addition to tithing and holding leadership positions in the Mormon Church, Bill gave both time and money to support causes dear to his heart, with a special emphasis on education. He also chaired two presidential inaugural committees and organized a special "Honor America Day" in 1970 at the request of then President Richard M. Nixon.

Sometime before his death at his New Hampshire vacation home on August 13, 1985, J. Willard Marriott summed up the personal philosophy that drove him his entire life: "A man should keep on being constructive, and do constructive things. He should take part in the things that go on in this wonderful world. He should be someone to be reckoned with. He should live life and make every day count, to the very end. Sometimes it's tough. But that's what I'm going to do."

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