Heritage

Then and Now: 1984 vs. 2014

Walmart CEO Doug McMillon's first Shareholders experience was in 1984. It was his first day at Walmart and although he was hired to pick orders and load trailers, he helped decorate the high school gym where the big event took place. A lot has changed since then, both with the Shareholders meeting and with our company. Take a look at how the business has grown — from Doug's early days in the warehouse to taking the Shareholders stage as CEO.

Be the first to comment on this article

Community

Among the Essentials, a Delivery of Hope

When Hurricane Katrina made landfall in August 2005, David Simmons’ first thought wasn’t the minor damage to his home in Mississippi. It was calling the Walmart dispatch station to see how he could help through his job as a truck driver.

He was sure there was plenty of emergency freight that had to be delivered, but that wasn’t a request he was met with on the other end of the line. The operator instead asked how his family fared in the storm, and told him to stay home and take care of his property as there were drivers coming from all over to assist with the recovery.

Later, he did get a chance to help – hauling donated merchandise for the Salvation Army – and says that it remains to this day one of the most fulfilling moments of his driving career.

“From food, clothing and water to even roofing materials, it was all needed and appreciated by the residents of the Gulf Coast,” David said.

Rickey Oliver, too, remembers Katrina as a moment he was proud to work for Walmart. One of the drivers who participated in a convoy of trucks that waited to enter one of the most heavily damaged areas of New Orleans, Rickey thought for a moment that the abandoned-looking area around him was actually empty. 

A man proudly holds a 2005 image of Walmart trucks waiting to enter affected areas of the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina

“To my amazement, like in the movie Field of Dreams they came, walking in from every street, every corner, out of buildings I thought for sure no one would be in. All hungry and thirsty and desperate for help, and we … were the help,” Rickey said. “I don’t think a person can truly express the feeling or the honor one receives in doing this kind of thing.”

Gary Mars, another Walmart driver who was part of that same convoy, feels the same way. Carrying water, generators, and food – plus ice, important during hot August weather in Louisiana – was a critical role to fill.

“I remember the sense of pride I felt as we convoyed into New Orleans and surrounding cities, as nearly every vehicle we met was waving at us as we passed, and several had makeshift signs saying, ‘Thank you, Walmart,’” Gary said. “I was relatively new to Walmart, but I knew at that point that this was a place to permanently call home. It’s amazing to me just how quick lives can change, just in a moment. It’s very humbling.” 

Be the first to comment on this article

Heritage

6 Walmart Artifacts to See at the Smithsonian

The beginning of July is always a great time to reflect back on Walmart history. After all, it was July 2, 1962, when Sam Walton opened his very first Walmart discount store in Rogers, Arkansas.

This year, the Smithsonian has a special birthday present for Walmart: Inclusion in the American Enterprise exhibit at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. Open July 1, the exhibition “chronicles the tumultuous interaction of capitalism and democracy that resulted in the continual remaking of American business – and American life.”    

The exhibition is an 8,000-square-foot space “focused on the role of business and innovation from the mid-1700s to the present.”  So if you’re heading to our nation’s capital this summer, take a look at where our country’s curators see Walmart’s place in American history.

Photo of the entrance to the Smithsonian Exhibition featuring Sam Walton and Walmart

Before you visit, here are a few things to know:

1.     Sam’s Walton’s Cap
This iconic piece of headgear is now on display in the Smithsonian. According to Peter Liebhold, Chair and Curator, Division of Work and Industry, if an artifact is in the Smithsonian archives, it’s officially in America’s collective memory. Of the more than 3 million artifacts in the archives, only about 1% are ever on display at one time. Sam’s cap is part of that 1%.

One other identical cap that’s been confirmed to have been worn by Sam in his final days is located in his office, on display at The Walmart Museum. Rob Walton donned it at Walmart’s shareholders meeting last month.

2.     Photo of Sam
The photo of Sam Walton that accompanies the display of Sam’s trucker ball cap is one that had been selected by associates in a Walmart World poll to be their favorite. While in the photo he’s not wearing the hat that’s on display, it was selected because of the disarming warmth the photo exudes.

Photo of Sam Walton on display at Smithsonian Exhibit

3.     Rosalind Brewer, “Game Changer”
Also part of the American Enterprise exhibit is a video of Sam’s Club CEO Rosalind Brewer. In this particular display, visitors select from a gallery of business leaders that the Smithsonian’s curators deem “Game Changers.” For good reason, Roz Brewer is included in the gallery, having been recognized repeatedly as one of the world’s most influential businesspersons.

Ros Brewer image featured at Smithsonian exhibit

4.     Valeda Snyder
Walmart’s very first 50-year associate is featured in a timeline along with other retail and industry employees out there on the front lines. Sadly, Valeda passed away in 2012 in her hometown of Lebanon, Missouri, before her inclusion in the Smithsonian.

Former CEO Mike Duke on stage with 50-year associate Valeda Snyder

5.     Save money. Live better.
In its section on marketing and advertising, the American Enterprise exhibit includes the best-known and most important taglines and slogans in the history of the industry. Of all of them, SMLB stands out because of its simplicity and its origin: Sam Walton.

"Save Money. Live Better" slogan on display at the Smithsonian

6.     Walmart Organic Produce
In the “Green Business” section of the exhibit, a colorful and vibrant photo of organic produce is on display as part of the story of the greening of American grocery.

Photo of Walmart Organic Produce at Smithsonian Exhibit

Can’t make it this summer? No worries. American Enterprise is a permanent exhibition set to be open to the public for at least the next 20 years.     

Be the first to comment on this article

Community

One Nurse, 16 Infants, and a Storm’s Ultimate Test

Medea Gabriel is not a hero, she insists.

During Hurricane Katrina, there were many others she believes are equally deserving of that title. Her fellow medical staff at New Orleans Memorial Medical Center who worked while separated from their families. Her best friend, Monique, who took Medea’s ailing mother to evacuate on her own. Also, the strangers she remembers driving their personal boats to pick up patients and staff from the hospital and navigate them to dry land.

But as a nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit, Medea helped wrap up 16 babies and move them to shelter through a hole in the wall that led to a truck bed. The truck bed was to take them to a helicopter and then, safety, but once Medea passed each infant through the wall, she had no idea if outside realities would let that happen.

Today, she knows that nearly all of those babies somehow survived on the way to their destination, Baton Rouge Women’s Hospital. While one of them did pass away, she doesn’t know how or when, because that hospital has since closed. She recently got a Facebook message from one of the mothers who wanted to thank her for what she did that day.

“It was surreal to know how much I impacted her life and that she remembered me,” Medea said. “Just knowing that these kids are now 10 years old lets me go on.”

Photo shows the inside of a neonatal intensive care unit

When Medea transported those infants that day, she says she was simply doing her job. Once the job was complete, she turned her full attention toward her mother, whom she sent with her best friend to get on a boat to safety. She had to pack up her mother’s medicine, waterproof her medical records and dosage instructions and staple them to the inside of her mother’s clothes so they didn’t get lost. She then sent her two loved ones off to stay with a college roommate whom she believed in her heart would take them in, but she didn’t know for sure. It was the second big moment that day where she had to simply act.

Thankfully, two days later – after Medea herself had to leave the hospital not knowing her next resting place – she found out that her mother was, in fact, alive.

While many things have changed for Medea since then, like a new job and also a new husband, she has returned home to New Orleans and works with pediatric patients once again, this time doing HIV research.

“I’m in a totally different place than I was before Katrina,” she said. “I’ve found peace and joy in this recovery.”

Editor’s Note: You can hear more of Medea’s story in a four-part podcast created by Good360, a disaster relief organization that works to improve the way communities can connect with much-needed supplies.    

Be the first to comment on this article

Community

With Grit and Heart, Two Mississippi Stores Return

Pass Christian, Mississippi, is a small town of only a few thousand people, but it has always been a huge part of Kim Claycomb’s life. It’s where she grew up and went to high school, and later built a career at the local Walmart.

In the last few days of August 2005, Kim’s community was forever changed as Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. Kim’s home was damaged, not destroyed, but her workplace – the supercenter she and her colleagues affectionately named “The Store by the Shore,” was ruined beyond repair.

After the storm hit, many Walmart associates went to work at other stores. Several in the Pass Christian area headed to another nearby small community, Waveland, to serve local residents in a makeshift store they created inside a tent in the parking lot.

Today, Kim works at a Neighborhood Market in Gulfport, but as her store in Pass Christian was being reconstructed, she drove by every day and took photos of its progress. When the building was complete, she recalled the mayor talking excitedly about the grand opening on the local news.

“I never thought a Walmart would have that big of an impact, but it did,” Kim said. “Seeing customers who remembered us from before … those people are like family to me. Coming back was a big deal.”

Be the first to comment on this article