Donald R. Horton, founder of nation’s largest homebuilder, dies at 74

by Patrick Regan

Donald R. Horton, the 74-year-old founder of America’s largest homebuilder D.R. Horton Inc., has died, the company announced Friday.

“It is with great sadness that I announce the passing of my friend and our company’s iconic founder and chairman, Don (“DR”) Horton,” said D.R. Horton Inc. Executive Chairman David V. Auld. “Throughout the company’s 46-year existence, he worked tirelessly to build a national homebuilding operation with a strong company culture, and the impact of his personal involvement with our team of operators across the United States has contributed immeasurable value to our company and people.”

Auld was appointed by the board to serve as executive chairman, effective immediately, the company said in a news release. He previously served as executive vice chairman.

Horton served as chairman of D.R. Horton Inc. since it was formed in July 1991, and he was president and CEO from July 1991 until November 1998. He was involved in the real estate and homebuilding industries since 1972 and was the founder, director and president of each of D.R. Horton’s predecessor companies, which date from 1978 to 1990.

Horton believed in decentralized operational decision making, empowering local leadership teams to make local business decisions and choose price points and home features. “We consider this important company tenet a critical ingredient to our past and future success,” the company said in the news release.

Horton was known for in-person office visits to sites across the country, making it a point to meet everyone in the sales offices, job sites and division offices, always referring to customers and employees as members of the D.R. Horton family, the company said. He “was approachable and relatable to everyone he met and maintained an unassuming personal lifestyle, as he never forgot his humble beginnings and the hard work it took to succeed,” the news release said.

Horton also founded a summer camp for employees’ children and created the D.R. Horton Inc. Foundation to help employees and their families who are victims of natural disasters. 

“We are all indebted to DR for his vision, tenacity and never-ending drive to continue to grow and improve our company,” Auld said. “While he is impossible to replace, we will strive to carry on his legacy of enabling the dream of homeownership for individuals and families across the United States in every stage of their lives.” 

Auld offered condolences to Horton’s wife, Marty; sons, Ryan and Reagan; daughters-in-law, Stacy and Michelle; their four grandchildren and “the rest of DR’s family.”

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