Holiday Inn Founder, Osceola Native Dies

February 13, 2003
Posted at: 11:20 a.m. CST

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Kemmons Wilson, founder of Holiday Inn and considered one of the most innovative minds in American business, died Wednesday at his home in Memphis.

Wilson was born an only child in Osceola, Arkansas. His father died when Wilson was nine-months old and the family moved to Memphis, where his mother, Doll Wilson, got a job as a dental assistant.

In 1951, already a millionaire from real estate deals, a chain of popcorn machines and a jukebox franchise, Wilson devised the idea for Holiday Inns during a family vacation to Washington. He said he wanted a chain of motels where children could stay free, and his motels became one of the most successful overnight stay businesses ever.

The cause of Wilson's death has not been determined. He was 90.

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