C. A. Sammons; Billionaire Businessman, Philanthropist

Times Staff Writer

Charles A. Sammons, an orphan who started with nothing and built an estimated $1.3-billion fortune and a reputation as a philanthropist, died Saturday in Dallas. He was 90.

The reclusive Sammons, raised by his aunt on a small farm, credited his success to “an angel on my shoulder.” In a 1959 interview he said: “Having no particular skill, no college training, I figured the only way I could get along was to get other people to work for me.”

At his death, 6,700 employees throughout the world worked for the still-active board chairman of Sammons Enterprises, a conglomerate of insurance, cable television, travel, industrial supply and bottled water firms. Forbes magazine counted him among the richest people in America.

In 1928, with two partners, he started the small-town insurance business that became Sammons Enterprises and spun off the Reserve Life Insurance company. Sammons said he entered the right business at the right time. But associates credit Sammons’ success to his sense of innovation and perseverance. He was the first to sell health insurance and pioneered the concept of monthly premiums.


His interest in health was not confined to turning a profit. His numerous donations to hospitals, schools, cultural centers and charities included a $1-million gift to build a new cancer center at the Baylor University Medical Center.

“I knew him to be a consummate entrepreneur,” said Robert Korba, president of Sammons Enterprises. Korba said Sammons urged executives to expand and grow in their businesses “until the day he died.”

“Nobody in Dallas knew who he was,” Korba said. “He couldn’t have cared less about personal prominence.”