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Biography of John Willard Marriott

John Willard Marriott was born to Hyrum Willard Marriott and Ellen Morris at Marriott Settlement, Utah, September 17, 1900. He was the second of eight children and spent his early years helping with the family sheep ranching business. In 1918 he left for Connecticut and Vermont to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

When he returned from his mission he attended Weber College from 1920 to 1922, and later enrolled at the University of Utah. In order to pay for his education, he worked during the summers selling woolen goods to lumberjacks in the Pacific Northwest. He graduated from the University of Utah in 1926, and spent the following year teaching English and working as treasurer of Weber College.

Mr. Marriott purchased the rights to sell Allen and Wright (A & W) root beer in Washington, D.C., and on May 20, 1927, he opened a root beer stand with Hugh Colton. A few weeks later he traveled back to Salt Lake City to marry Alice Sheets, June 9, 1927, in the Salt Lake Temple.

After the wedding, they returned immediately to Washington, D.C., and a few weeks later they opened their second shop. By winter they realized that they would need something other than cold drinks in order to keep the business running. However, it was prohibited to sell food in A & W franchises. The Marriotts received permission from Allen and Wright to add hot food to the menu. They decided to specialize in Mexican and Southwestern food, and the chef at the Mexican embassy graciously supplied them with a few recipes. Because the Marriotts were worried about the risk of losing their patronage if they closed the shop to make the changes needed for food service, they made preparations ahead of time so that it took only one night to convert the store. They finished just in time to open the next morning as The Hot Shoppe.

In 1928 Hugh Colton decided to sell his half of the business and return to Utah. The Marriotts purchased the other half of the business for $5,000.00 and they became sole owners of The Hot Shoppe.

Photograph number The 1930s were a time of tremendous growth for the company and the Marriott family. The Marriotts' first child, J. Willard Marriott, Jr., was born in 1932. By 1934 the corporation had added drive-in restaurants with "running boys" that provided customers with in-car service. In addition, the Marriotts had pioneered the world's first in-flight airline catering service. In 1939 the Marriotts' second son, Richard Edwin Marriott, was born.

Much of the company's expansion efforts came to fruition in the 1940s and 1950s. The corporation built several new restaurants and opened numerous industrial, defense plant, and school cafeterias. A corporate recipe card system was developed and a test kitchen was built to standardize food preparation and portions. In 1957 the corporation expanded into the hotel industry with the first Marriott Motor Hotel in Arlington, Virginia.

The company continued to grow under Mr. Marriott's control until 1964, when he turned over the company presidency to his son, J. Willard Marriott, Jr. Mr. Marriott continued to be heavily involved with the corporation as chairman of the board.

However, corporate affairs did not wholly absorb Mr. Marriott's interest during these years. He was actively involved in religious, academic, political, and community organizations throughout his life.

He played an important part in the administration of the affairs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) in Washington, D.C. In 1948 he was called to be president of the Washington Stake, a position he held until 1957, when he was appointed chairman of the General Chaplains Committee of the Mormon Church. He was actively involved with the Nauvoo Restoration Project and had a keen interest in the archaeology of the Book of Mormon. He also was instrumental in raising money for many building funds and served as an important liaison to church headquarters in Salt Lake City for the construction and dedication of the Washington D.C. Temple.

The Marriotts retained close ties with academic institutions in Utah. In 1969 they made a substantial gift to the newly opened University of Utah Library which was subsequently named the Marriott Library. They later made another generous gift, this time to Brigham Young University, for the Marriott Activities Center which was dedicated in 1973. Mr. Marriott received honorary doctorate degrees from both institutions, as well as from Weber State College.

As a loyal Republican, Mr. Marriott formed close friendships in the national political arena. His list of friends included Dwight D. Eisenhower (a frequent customer of the Hot Shoppes), Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan. He was appointed by Nixon to chair both the 1969 and 1973 inaugural committees and served as chairman of the executive committee for Honor America Day for many years, along with committee members Billy Graham and Bob Hope. The Marriotts were life-long contributors to the Republican National Committee and supporters of George Romney and Richard Nixon's bids for the presidential nomination. Mr. Marriott also served on the board of governors for the United Service Organizations.

Mr. Marriott was always held in great esteem by his colleagues. He served as president of both the Washington Restaurant Association and the National Restaurant Association, and received numerous awards in the food and lodging industries. Throughout his life, he was affiliated with many business and civic organizations including the Burning Tree Club, the Indian Creek Country Club, Bald Peak Colony Club, Columbia Country Club, Capitol Hill Club, Federal City Council, the Washington Admirals, the National Association of Manufacturers, Riggs National Bank, the American Historical and Cultural Society, American Motors Corporation, Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company, and the Acacia Mutual Life Insurance Company.

Mr. Marriott died of a heart attack on August 13, 1985, at his summer home in New Hampshire.


Alice Sheets Marriott was born October 19, 1907, in Salt Lake City, Utah to Alice Taylor and Edwin Spencer Sheets. She graduated with honors from the University of Utah in 1927 at age 19. She was a member of Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and Chi Omega sorority.

Two days after graduation she married J. Willard Marriott in the Salt Lake Temple and moved to Washington, D.C. to help with the A & W root beer stand he had opened a few weeks before. Shortly after her arrival, they opened a second stand. Mrs. Marriott's early responsibilities included collecting accounts and taking receipts to the bank. Although the business was quite successful during the summer months, it was apparent that in the approaching winter months they would need more than root beer to keep the business afloat. Food service in the franchise was prohibited, but the Marriotts were able to secure special permission from Allen and Wright to add food to the menu.

The Marriotts discussed the idea of serving Mexican and Southwestern food, but neither had any experience in food preparation of this kind. Since Mrs. Marriott had majored in Spanish in college, she was able to talk to the chef at the Mexican embassy who provided her with a few recipes and the address of a Mexican food supply house in San Antonio, Texas.

Photograph number Mrs. Marriott practiced cooking the recipes while Mr. Marriott made preparations to modify the stand for food service. They were determined to have everything ready in order to change the stand as quickly as possible, so they wouldn't lose their patronage. In the fall of 1927 the changes were made and the stand was transformed overnight. The Hot Shoppe was now in business, with Mrs. Marriott as the chef.

Photograph number In 1930, Alice Taylor Sheets, Mrs. Marriott's mother, married Senator Reed Smoot and with that marriage came the Marriotts' inclusion in the political circles of Washington, D.C. In addition to these social activities, Mrs. Marriott continued to be very involved with the business, even after the birth of their sons, J. Willard Marriott, Jr. in 1932 and Richard Edwin Marriott in 1939. She was instrumental in key decision-making which affected the company's growth and success, and even helped design and decorate company restaurants and hotels and scouted out new locations for company expansion.

Photograph number Mrs. Marriott's political activities were varied and extensive throughout her life. From 1955 to 1957 she served as assistant treasurer for the League of Republican Women for the District of Columbia, and in 1957 was appointed vice president of the organization, a post she held for two years. She continued to affiliate with the League of Republican Women, serving in numerous positions in subsequent years. In 1959 she was named to the District of Columbia Republican State Executive Committee. She was a member of the Republican National Committee from 1959 to 1976, and during those years she served as vice chairman and as an executive committee member. She served on the Arrangements Committee for the Republican National Conventions of 1960, 1964, 1968, and 1972, and was treasurer of the conventions in 1964, 1968, and 1972. She was vice chairman of the 1969 Inaugural Committee and honorary chairman of the 1973 Inaugural Committee.

Photograph number In addition to her political responsibilities, Mrs. Marriott was actively involved with various organizations in the community, including the Goodwill Industries Guild, the Capital Speakers Club, the International Neighbors Club, the Arthritis and Rheumatism Association of Metropolitan Washington, and the National Advisory Committee for Children and Youth. She also helped found the Welcome to Washington International Club.

Photograph number The nation's arts community benefitted greatly from Mrs. Marriott's service and philanthropy. In 1971 she was appointed chairman of the Advisory Committee on the Arts for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and in 1972 was appointed to the board of trustees. She was an honorary trustee, having served two 10-year terms on the board and executive and finance committees. She also served on the board of directors of the National Ballet Society, and was a former member of the Women's Committee of the National Symphony Orchestra.

Photograph number Mrs. Marriott's dedication to academic excellence was manifest not only in her college years, but throughout her life. She held two honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees, one from Mount Vernon College and one from the University of Utah. The University of Utah has been the recipient of the Marriott's support and generosity for many years. In 1989 the new dance building was dedicated as the Alice Sheets Marriott Center for Dance in recognition of her particular interest in the arts. For the Marriott Library's twentieth anniversary in 1988, Mrs. Marriott made a sizeable donation, and in the tradition of the family, her son, J. Willard Marriott, Jr., chaired the university's capital campaign which far exceeded its goal of one hundred and fifty million dollars. At the conclusion of the campaign, the Marriott's made a significant donation to the library.

Photograph number Mrs. Marriott's counsel and advice were sought by various individuals and organizations throughout her life. She was a member of the American Newspaper Women's Association, the Capitol Hill Club, the Washington Club, the 1925 F Street Club, and was named to the honorary board of the National Committee for Prevention of Child Abuse. She served as a member of the National Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases Advisory Council and was on the board of directors of the Arthritis Foundation. She was also an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Before her death on April 17, 2000, she was as director emeritus of Marriott International Incorporated and Host Marriott Corporation, having served one of the longest periods of active board service in American business history. Her oldest son, J. Willard Marriott, Jr., is the chairman of Marriott International and her younger son, Richard E. Marriott, is chairman of Host Marriott.

From the guide to the J. Willard and Alice Sheets Marriott photograph collection, 1890s-1980s, (J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf J. Willard and Alice Sheets Marriott photograph collection, 1890s-1980s J. Willard Marriott Library, University of UtahPhotograph Archives
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Marriott Corporation corporateBody
associatedWith Marriott Hot Shoppes corporateBody
associatedWith Marriott, J. Willard(John Willard), 1900-1985 person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Social Life and Customs


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Ark ID: w60m76wt

SNAC ID: 38089676