J.R. Simplot, an Idaho grower who supplied much of the dried potatoes and vegetables consumed by U.S. troops in World War II, died recently at the age of 99. Simplot, who tooled around Boise in a Lincoln Continental with “Mr. Spud” license plates, never attended high school. But the shrewd farm boy, who would later strike a deal with Ray Kroc to supply McDonald’s restaurants with French fries, did all right for himself.
He developed a multifaceted giant agricultural conglomerate, not only growing and processing potatoes and other vegetables, but manufacturing fertilizers and chemicals. Then, at the age of 71, when many men elect to retire, he gave a couple of Boise brothers $1 million for 40% of what would become the computer chip maker Micron Technology. By 2006, Jack Simplot and his family were ranked No. 80 on Forbes magazine’s list of richest Americans, with an estimated wealth of $3.2 billion.