J. Willard Marriott Biography

J. Willard Marriott is a 20th century American entrepreneur who started in food service and eventually opened a hotel chain.


John Willard Marriott was born on September 17, 1900, in Marriott Settlement, Utah. In 1927, he opened an A&W root beer shop in Washington, D.C. and then launched the Hot Shoppe eateries. Marriott eventually became head of the National Restaurant Association and opened the first of the Marriott hotels in 1959. The chain became one of America's largest companies and developed into an international business.


Early Life

Restaurant and hotel entrepreneur John Willard Marriott was born on September 17, 1900, in Marriott, Utah. A devoted Mormon for his entire life, Marriott served as a missionary for two years in New England. After completing his service, Marriott attended the University of Utah where he met his future wife Alice Sheet. The two were married shortly after Marriott graduated in 1927.

Launch of Marriott Hotels

Marriott's first foray into business was as an A&W Root Beer franchisee in the Washington, D.C., area. He opened his first A&W stand in 1927. Marriott soon transformed that business into the Hot Shoppe by adding hot food items. He then started a chain of Hot Shoppes, which was positioned as drive-in family eateries, along the East Coast. Marriott also expanded his business in a new direction in 1937 by providing food for commercial airlines.

Continuing to explore new business directions, Marriott opened his first hotel in 1957—the Twin Bridges Marriott Motor Hotel located in Arlington, Virginia. While interested in the lodging market, he continued to expand his food operations in the late 1960s. Marriott acquired the Big Boy restaurant chain in 1967 and started the Roy Rogers fast-food outlets the next year. In 1982, Marriott bought Host International, making it the largest provider of food, beverages and merchandise at the nation's airports.

Death and Legacy

Marriott and his wife had two sons, Richard and John Willard, Jr., who is known as Bill. While his son Bill became president of the company in 1964, Marriott remained active in the business, serving chief executive officer until 1972 and as chairman of the board until his death.

J. Willard Marriott died on August 13, 1985. The company he built became two separate entities in 1990s: Host Marriott Corporation and Marriott International, a giant in the hospitality industry. While the food service and hospitality assets of Host Marriott Corporation now belong to other companies, Marriott International carries on its founder's work with more than 2,500 hotels worldwide. Besides the Marriott brand, the company also operates Ritz-Carlton Hotels, Renaissance Hotels and Resorts, Residence Inns and several other chains.

Fact Check

We strive for accuracy and fairness. If you see something that doesn't look right, contact us!