Little League® International mourns the passing of Eric Hilton, retired Vice Chairman of the Hilton Hotels Corporation, trustee of the Little League Foundation for more than 35 years until the Foundation was dissolved in 2011, and long-time supporter of the Little League Urban Initiative program. He was 83.
Mr. Hilton, the youngest son of Hilton Hotels founder, Conrad Hilton, and his wife, Mary Adelaide Barron, was born on July 1, 1933, in Dallas.
“Inspired and determined to help others, Eric Hilton saw Little League as a vehicle to provide opportunity to children and communities where none had existed,” said Stephen D. Keener, Little League President and CEO. “He spent decades committed to protecting and maintaining our program’s future through the Little League Foundation, and later, his unwavering belief in the development of the Little League Urban Initiative helped to bring his love of baseball to generations of children, who otherwise would have never had the chance to enjoy the game.”
During his high school years, Mr. Hilton was a top-rated pitcher. Soon after graduation, he had chance play to professional baseball, but playing sports for a living was not in his future. Mr. Hilton is quoted as saying: “I brought the (minor league) contract home and asked my mother to sign it. She looked at the contract, she looked at me, and she tore it up. That’s when my hotel career began!”
Since the early 1990s, Mr. Hilton, through the auspices of the Conrad Hilton Foundation, had provided support to Little League for the creation and development of Hilton Foundation Fields. These field renovation projects created places where children and families can enjoy all that the Little League program has to offer.
“Eric Hilton respected the responsibility of Little League’s mission and appreciated how it has become a cornerstone for many cities and towns throughout the world,” said Mr. Keener. “The Little League fields that have been completed through the support of the Hilton Foundation are today providing a place for children to enjoy playing Little League and where volunteers support their efforts in a positive and productive learning environment.”
Mr. Hilton began his business career in 1949, and worked his way up through his family’s company. He spent summers at the El Paso Hilton, and after two years of college at Texas Western University, was accepted to The School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University. However, he did not spend a day at Cornell because the day after he got his acceptance letter, he received his draft notice. Entering the Army, Mr. Hilton served as radar specialist, and worked on experimental systems for detecting low-flying aircraft, while spending the bulk of his service time in the United States and Japan.
After being discharged from the Army, Mr. Hilton dedicated his career to his family business, eventually retiring in 1997, as Vice Chairman Emeritus. Before his election to Vice Chairman in 1993, Mr. Hilton served as Executive Vice President and as a director of Hilton Hotels Corp., as well as President of Conrad International Hotels.
Championing the philanthropic legacy established by his father, Mr. Hilton also served as the Director for the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.
In 2007, at the 24th Little League International Congress in Houston, Little League International recognized Mr. Hilton with the presentation of the Peter O’Malley Little League Distinguished Ambassador Award.
Mr. Hilton is survived by his wife of 32 years, Bibi; his older brother Barron Hilton; four children; two stepchildren; and 11 grandchildren. At the time of his death, Mr. Hilton resided in Las Vegas.
In lieu of flowers, the family encourages donations in Eric Hilton’s name to Three Square through threesquare.org.