Born in Union Springs, Alabama in 1921, Red Blount, as he was known to his friends, was educated in public school, and at Staunton Military Academy in Virginia.
In 1939, he began attending the University of Alabama, but dropped out to manage a Selma asphalt plant partly owned by his father.
While going through the Army Air Corps flight training in 1942, he married his high school sweetheart, Mary Katherine Archibald. The couple had five children and divorced in 1981. In December of that year, he married Carolyn Self Varner.
His professional career began in 1941 when he, along with his brother, Houston, became associated with his father’s interests in short-line railroad and building materials.
In 1946, he and Houston, both veterans of World War II, formed Blount Brothers Construction Company after buying four war-surplus Caterpillar tractors for $28,000. They borrowed the money from a local bank, with a loan guarantee from their mother Clara Belle Chalker Blount, and started building fish ponds in Bullock County. They worked out of her house in Union Springs and soon started constructing bridges, roads and small buildings across Alabama, and Mississippi.
In 1949, the company finished its first $1 million contract, the First Avenue viaduct in Birmingham.
Less than two decades later the company became noted for building some of the largest and most significantly complex projects of the century, including the first intercontinental ballistic missile base near Cheyenne, Wyoming, and the New Orleans Superdome.
The company also constructed the launch complex 39-A at Cape Canaveral, from which men left Earth for the moon in 1969-72. Also built at Cape Canaveral was the foundation for the Vehicle Assembly Building, where the massive Saturn V rocket stages were stacked together before they roared toward the Moon.
Mr. Blount’s interests also ran to politics. When he was 10, he worked as a page in the Alabama Legislature, where his father, Winton “Beau” Blount, worked as an unpaid lobbyist for himself and other short-line railroad owners.
Red became a Republican in 1952, when he backed Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s run for President.
He became one of the formative people in the rise of the Republican Party in Alabama, and helped change it from a tiny group interested in controlling federal appointments in Alabama to a viable party.
Mr. Blount campaigned in Richard Nixon’s failed bid for President in 1960, but didn’t campaign for Nixon in 1968, because he had been elected president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in May of that year and had to be bipartisan.
Just weeks after Nixon’s victory in 1968, Nixon asked Mr. Blount to join his Cabinet as Postmaster General of the United States.
Nixon asked Blount to push for an end to the patronage system, under which members of Congress in the party that held the White House appointed postmasters across the country. He was also asked to modernize the Post Office department.
His work paid off in 1970, with Congress passing and Nixon signing the Postal Reorganization Act. Under the law the Post Office Department became the U.S. Postal Service, free of patronage appointments. Blount resigned from the Postal Service in 1971.
He returned to Alabama in 1972, and ran as the Republican nominee against veteran Democratic U.S. Sen. John Sparkman, but lost in his only run for public office.
After the loss, he rejoined the company he had founded which by then, had become more diversified. He served as chairman of Blount International, a New York Stock Exchange international manufacturing company headquartered in Montgomery, with operations and distribution in more than 130 countries around the globe. The company was sold in 1999 to Lehman Brothers Merchant Banking Partners.
Red served on or chaired numerous business and professional associations, among them the Alabama State Chamber of Commerce, Alabama Road Builders Association, Business Council of Alabama and the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce to name a few
He set an example for others to be involved in the local community, becoming a tireless supporter for the arts. He was involved in bringing the Vatican Art Collection to the U.S. He has also served on President Ronald Reagan’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, and was a former member of the Court of Governors for the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in England.
Blount became involved with the Alabama Shakespeare Festival in the early 1980’s, during the time his wife, Carolyn, served on the board of directors.
The festival was located in Anniston, but was deeply in debt. Mr. Blount offered to pay off its debts and build a theater for the group if it would move to Montgomery. He dug deep into his pockets to build the $22 million theater complex on 250 acres next to his home. It moved to its new residence in 1985.
The Washington Post drama critic called it “the most beautiful theater building seen on five continents”. Blount later spent another $20 million to create the 300-acre Cultural Park around the complex, including the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts. He also arranged for his mansion, Wynfield, to eventually be donated to the park.
In 1984 he was given a citation for Distinguished Service to the State of Alabama by Governor George Wallace. In 1987 he was named Citizen of the Year by the Montgomery Advertiser-Journal, and inducted into the Alabama Business Hall of Fame.
Winton Blount gave away ten’s of millions of his personal fortune to help his community and to help others.
He was far and away the greatest philanthropist in the history of this state, leaving a lasting legacy.