Tale of Two Rich Men

As licensed Real Estate Broker (BRE #00635976) and commissioned Notary Public in California since 1981 and active Evangelist with the GOLDEN GATE CHURCH OF CHRIST in San Francisco, California, I was fascinated to know the life story of two very rich men namely: George Pepperdine and Howard Hughes, Jr. 

I usually remember George Pepperdine this month of July, because the annual Pepperdine Bible Lectureship is normally hosted by Pepperdine University (founded by the late George Pepperdine) in Malibu, California attended by thousands of preachers, evangelists, and Christians from all over the United States and from around the world. My beloved wife Virginia Jimenez Madlaing and I were blessed and fortunate to attend the Pepperdine Bible Lectureship several times. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, the Pepperdine Bible Lectureship was canceled this year. 

George Pepperdine was a very successful executive, entrepreneur and Christian philanthropist. He founded Western Auto Supply that made him millions of dollars. From his wealth, he purchased 34-acre estate in Los Angeles where he founded and established Pepperdine College on September 21, 1937 with Dr. Batsel Baxter as first president.  

On July 1, 1971, Pepperdine College officially became Pepperdine University with Dr. William S. Banowsky as the new president. With the growth and expansion, the university campus moved from Los Angeles to Malibu, California in a 138 acres undeveloped ranch land overlooking the Pacific Ocean. 

In founding Pepperdine College, which became Pepperdine University, George Pepperdine mentioned  twofold objectives: First, academic training in the liberal arts;  Secondly, we are especially dedicated to a greater goal – that of building  in the student a Christ-like life, a love for the church and a passion for the souls of mankind. 

George Pepperdine also encouraged and supported missionaries in the preaching of the gospel in the Philippines and other countries. He supported the late George Benson, who started one of the earliest congregations in the island of Mindoro in the Philippines. George Benson eventually became President of Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas. Our two daughters both graduated at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas, USA. 

George Pepperdine (born June 2, 1886 in Kansas) was active member of the CHURCH OF CHRIST. He remained faithful until his death on July 31, 1962 at the age of 76. He was buried at the Inglewood Park Cemetery in Los Angeles, California USA. 

When my wife and I had a tour of Acapulco in the mid-1980s, we stayed at the Princess Hotel in Acapulco, Mexico. Subsequently, I had the opportunity to get and read a copy of the book” HOWARD HUGHES” chronicling the life story of Howard Hughes, Jr. 

I was surprised to read in the later chapters of the book about the last few weeks of the life of the reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes who stayed at the Penthouse of the Princess Hotel in Acapulco, Mexico. I didn’t fully realize that my wife and I stayed at the same Princess Hotel in Acapulco where Howard Hughes stayed before he was flown to a Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas on April 5, 1976 where he died on the way due to kidney or renal failure at the age of 70. 

Howard Hughes, who was born on December 24, 1905, was American business tycoon, investor, pilot, film director and engineer. During his time, he was one of the most financially successful individuals in the world. At the time of his death in 1976, his net worth was $2.5 billion or equivalent to more than $11 billion today. 

At the time of his death, he had no known descendants and immediate family and he didn’t leave behind a will. He was buried at Glenwood Cemetery in Houston, Texas USA.  In later years, he became emaciated and deranged from the effects of a meagre diet and excess of drugs. In his dying days, he was completely reclusive inside the Penthouse of the Princess Hotel in Acapulco, Mexico. 

Interestingly, with billions of net worth at the time of his death, it took years before the liquidation of his estate was completely finalized in 2010 – 34 years after his death. The last piece of the puzzle was the Summerlin residential development. In 1996, Rouse Co. (now General Growth) agreed to buy the Summerlin land from the Hughes’ estate on a 14-year repayment plan. With that, finally, the estate of Howard Hughes was laid to rest. 

The tale of these two very rich men has similarities as well as contrast.  Both purchased some homes and acquired land and made millions and billions of dollars in their life time. Both died at the ages of  76 and 70, the average life span mentioned in the Bible. Psalm 90:10 says:  “The length of our days is seventy years – or eighty, if we have the strength;  yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and they fly away.” 

George Pepperdine was a faithful Christian who was not afraid to die and knew where he is going after physical death (1 John 5:13).  He used his wealth for endowment to establish Pepperdine College (now Pepperdine University) for the cause of Christian education for the youth. He supported missionaries for the preaching of the gospel to the many lost souls ( Matthew 28:18-20, Romans 1:16, 1 Corinthians 15:1-4), 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9, Acts 2:37-38). 

In contrast, Howard Hughes was not a Christian and had no hope for eternal life. He focused on accumulating wealth for himself and for fame and glory. In his dying days, he was afraid to die.  His last days were miserable in seclusion at the Penthouse of the Princess Hotel in Acapulco, Mexico. 

Whether billionaire, or regular working Joe, we all die.  What matters most is to make sure that our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life on the Judgment Day (Revelation 21:27). Here’s warning from the Bible: “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Matthew 16:26, Mark 8:37, NKJV) 

We encourage you to be prepared like George Pepperdine before it’s too late. We cordially invite you to have WE CARE Gospel presentation in the privacy of your home or office to find an answer directly from the Bible the urgent and important question: “What if Christ were to come right now, or if you’ll die tonight? Would you know for sure, without any doubt, that you would go to heaven?”. 

Just write or contact: WE CARE Ministries, 701-8th Avenue, San Francisco, California, USA  Tel. (650)438-3531 or (415)584-7095 or e mail: agmadlaing@hotmail.com 

*Reprinted from Art’s column published in the weekly Philippine News Today.