J.R. "Jack" Simplot (Founder, J.R. Simplot Company)

J.R. Simplot photo

Burial Date: May 30, 2008
Location: Section T-75-2

J.R. Simplot was the founder of the J.R. Simplot Company, an agricultural supplier specializing in potato products. J.R. began his career when he quit school in the eighth grade, at age 14, leaving home to strike out on his own in 1923 to work on a farm near Delco, Idaho. By World War II, the J.R. Simplot Company had become the largest shipper of fresh potatoes in the nation.

In 1945, Simplot established a canning and dehydrating quick-freeze plant in which employees tested frozen potato products. The Simplot Company is credited with pioneering the first commercial frozen French fry in the late 1940s, with Simplot establishing a patent for the invention in 1953.

In 1967, Simplot and McDonalds founder Ray Kroc agreed by hand shake that the Simplot Company would provide frozen French fries to the restaurant chain. By 1972, all McDonald's fries were frozen, making the transition from fresh cut potatoes. The frozen fry deal led to expansion of Simplot potato processing plants and construction of a new plant at Hermiston, OR in 1977. By 2005, Simplot supplied more than half of all french fries for the fast food chain.

J.R. was involved in a number of other business ventures including the financing of Brundage Mountain Ski Area near McCall, ID (selling his 50% interest in 2006) and providing startup capital in the early 1980s for the fledgling Micron Technology, a Boise-based manufacturer of computer memory chips.

Simplot retired as president of his company in 1973, but remained as chairman until 1994. He held the title of Chairman Emeritus until his death in 2008. In 2001, Simplot received an honorary degree from Utah State University honoring him for his many contributions to the agricultural industry of America and, particularly, the Intermountain West.

J.R. and his wife Esther have been very generous through the years, giving to multiple charitable organizations including the Boy and Girl Scouts of America, Ballet Idaho, Boise Art Museum and St. Luke's Children's Hospital. The couple also donated their signature hilltop home, in Boise's north end, to the State of Idaho in 2005 for use as a governor's mansion, now known as "The Idaho House", as well as purchased and donated a 55-acre parcel of Boise River front property to the City of Boise in 2003, which will eventually be developed as Esther Simplot Park.

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