Friday, January 3, 2014

Remembering Conrad Nicholson Hilton December 25, 1887 - January 3, 1979

His autobiography "Be My Guest" is required reading for anyone going into the hotel management
business and his name is synonymous with quality and comfortable stay while traveling.  The man is non other than Conrad Nicholson Hilton, founder of the Hilton Hotels chain.  He spent six decades building one of the world's foremost business empires.

Hilton was born in San Antonio, New Mexico.  His dad was an immigrant from Norway and his mom was of American German descent.  As a young boy, Conrad helped his father who owned and operated a general store. He developed his entrepreneurial spirit during that time.  He attended the New Mexico Military Institute known as Goss.  He then attended the St. Michael's College (now known as Santa Fe University of Art and Design).  At an early age, Conrad took an interest in politics and became a Republican representative in the first New Mexico Legislature.  He then served two years in the US Army during World War I.  While in the service, Conrad's father was killed in an automobile accident.  Throughout his life, Conrad was a devout Catholic.  He often said that his mother was a huge influence on his life and always encouraged Conrad and his seven siblings on the
importance of prayer.

Conrad had plans of buying a bank during the oil boom.  Instead, he acquired his first hotel (Mobley Hotel) in Cisco, Texas in 1919.  The hotel was hugely successful.  Using his entrepreneurial spirit, Conrad continued to buy and build hotels in Texas.  Among them were the Dallas Hilton in 1925, Waco Hilton in 1928 and the El Paso Hilton in 1930.  He decided to expand his hotel empire outside of Texas in 1939 by opening the Hotel Andaluz in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Soon came the great depression and Conrad was forced into bankruptcy and sold many of them.  Even though they sold, Conrad was retained as a manager and regained control of eight hotels.  He continued to develop and acquire hotels from California, Chicago, New York that included the famous Waldorf-Astoria and formed his company known as Hilton Hotels Corporation in 1946 followed by Hilton International Company in 1948.  He eventually expanded to 188 hotels in 38 U.S. cities.

Over Hilton's life, he received numerous degrees from universities.  He published his autobiography in 1957, "Be My Guest" and the book is still used today for training hoteliers.

His belief in the importance of charity and his duty to aid people in need led him to create what became one of the world's largest humanitarian funds, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.

Hilton's autobiography and funeral card
He also founded the Conrad N. Hilton College that is a hospitality school at the University of Houston.

On Conrad's personal side, he was married three times including his second wife, Zsa Zsa Gabor.

His empire has now expanded to over 2000 hotels and properties around the world.

Conrad Hilton died at the age of 91 on January 3, 1979 in Santa Monica, California from natural causes.
Hilton resting place

A Mass of the Resurrection was held in the St. Paul The Apostle Church in Westwood, California (prayer card pictured) on January 5, 1979.

He was laid to rest in the Calvary Hill Cemetery in Dallas, Texas and his epitaph reads "Christmas is Forever."

Hilton epitaph "Christmas is Forever"

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