In the Winter of 1980, the notorious billionaires Nelson Bunker and William Herbert Hunt conspired to deprive me and my wife of our household silver. It was an outrageous act. Katie and I were engaged to be married that year and had registered our pattern at various department stores, hoping to get lucky with five or six place settings. At the time, silver was going for about $6 an ounce, and a decent dessert spoon cost about $10. It was not too much to hope for, we thought.
Then the Hunt brothers, in perhaps the single most astounding, not to mention pigheaded, financial maneuver of the twentieth century, decided to try to corner the global silver market. They bought up 200 million ounces—more than half the world’s deliverable silver. In January 1980 the price of silver rocketed to $50 an ounce. By March, when we got married, that dessert spoon was going for $60. We received no silver at all for our wedding. We barely even got any silver plate. We still have one of those pieces—an ugly little butter dish—and every time I look at it, I think of Bunker and Herbert Hunt.
That was the first time I had heard of the Dallas Hunts, and it was a measure of their staggering financial power that they could not only rock world markets but also affect a small wedding in northeastern Ohio. Bunker and Herbert, who still live in Dallas, are two of the fourteen children of H. L. Hunt, Texas’ most famous oilman and one of the richest men in the world. His other offspring include Dallas oil baron Ray Hunt, philanthropists Caroline Rose Hunt and Margaret Hunt Hill, radio evangelist June Hunt, former U.S. ambassador Swanee Hunt, and Kansas City Chiefs founder Lamar Hunt. They tend, like Bunker and Herbert, to be driven, extremely successful prominent workaholics who have refused to coast on their fabulous wealth.
They are also inseparable from another H.L. legacy: They are part of one of the most scandalous familial relationships in American history. H.L. had three families, and two of them were a secret, at least for a while. Over one eight-year period in the late twenties and early thirties, he had seven children by two wives, none of