Walton, who danced a hula on Wall Street last year when profit goals were met, replaced Gordon Getty, the front-runner for the past two years. Getty dropped to 15th. Getty's fortune was $4.1 billion last year, but he agreed to divide the family oil trust with other family members, leaving him barely $950 million.
Second place went to Henry Ross Perot of Dallas, founder of Electronic Data Systems, who was $1 billion behind Walton.
Media holdings were up this year, making billionaires of John Kluge and S. I. and Donald Newhouse and adding Rupert Murdoch, whose publishing empire has earned him $300 million.
Agriculture and oil were down. Seven Texas oilmen who appeared last year were dropped from the list. So were four Rockefellers and 53 others.
Eight Rockefellers remain on the list, along with the usual number of Cabots, Du Ponts, Hunts, Hearsts and Kennedys.
There also are brewers Busch, Coors and Stroh and vintners Gallo.
Among the rich and famous are Gene Autry, the cowboy star, who has made $150 million in broadcasting and real estate; Ted Turner, the rambunctious Atlantan, with $300 million, and Norman Lear, producer of "All in the Family" with $175 million.
The list, to appear in Forbes' Oct. 28 issue, provides a fascinating portrait of the rich in America. The average net worth of the 400 is $335 million. There are 14 billionaires. Only 165 built their fortunes without significant inheritances.
Fourteen are immigrants and 78 are women. At least eight did not finish high school. Forty-one of the men and 38 of the women are unmarried. And 113 have been divorced.
Most of the rich are not very famous.
James Jaeger, at 37 the youngest of the self-made rich, earned $175 million with automotive radar detectors. Philip Hampson Knight used to sell sneakers. He still does, in a way. He owns $195 million worth of Nike.
In all, 14 people--12 men and two women--are worth at least $1 billion, compared to 12 billionaires on Forbes' list last year.
David Packard, chairman of Hewlett-Packard, was third with $1.5 billion. Margaret Hunt Hill of Dallas, who inherited money from her father, H. L. Hunt, was fourth with $1.4 billion.
A second of H. L. Hunt's daughters, Caroline Rose Hunt Schoellkopf, 62, was fifth with $1.3 billion. Samuel I. Newhouse Jr., 57, and brother Donald Newhouse, 56, share a $2.2-billion fortune. H. L. Hunt's three sons--Nelson Bunker, Lamar and W. Herbert--who had ranked among the top 20 in previous years, fell far down the list this year due to losses estimated as high as $3 billion from their attempt to corner the world silver market in 1980.
THE 400 RICHEST AMERICANS Compiled by Forbes magazine, lists in descending order of wealth and showsage, residence, source of wealth and estimated fortune. 1. Sam Moore Walton, 67, Bentonville, Ark., Wal-Mart discount stores, $2.8 billion. 2. Henry Ross Perot, 55, Dallas, Electronic Data Systems, $1.8 billion. 3. David Packard, 73, Los Altos Hills, Calif., Hewlett-Packard, $1.5 billion. 4. Margaret Hunt Hill, 70, Dallas, inheritance, oil, $1.4 billion. 5. Caroline Rose Hunt Schoelikopf, 62, Dallas, inheritance, oil and real estate, $1.3 billion. 6. Samuel Irving Newhouse Jr., 57, New York, publishing, $1.1 billion. 7. Donald Edward Newhouse, 56, New York, publishing, $1.1 billion. 8. David Rockefeller, 70, New York and Tarrytown, N.Y., inheritance, banking and real estate, $1 billion. 9. Henry Lea Hillman, 66, Pittsburgh, industrialist, $1 billion. 10. John Werner Kluge, 71, Charlottesville, Va., and New York, Metromedia, $1 billion. Helmsley, Harry Brakmann, 76, New York, real estate, $1 billion.
Davis, Marvin, 60, Denver and Beverly Hills, Calif., oil, entertainment and real estate, $1 billion.
Buffett, Warren Edward, 55, Omaha, Neb., stock market, $1 billion.
Wexner, Leslie Herbert, 48, Columbus, Ohio, The Limited Inc., $1 billion.
Getty, Gordon Peter, 51, San Francisco, inheritance (oil), $950 million.
Anschutz, Philip F., 45, Denver, oil, investments, $950 million.
Anthony, Barbara Cox, 62, Honolulu, inheritance (Cox Enterprises), $950 million.
Chambers, Anne Cox, 65, Atlanta, inheritance (Cox Enterprises), $950 million.
Hunt, Nelson Bunker, 59, Dallas, inheritance, oil and real estate, $900 million.
Mars, Forrest Edward Sr., 81, Las Vegas, Nev., candy, $875 million.
Mars, Forrest Edward Jr., 54, McLean, Va., candy, $875 million.
Mars, John Franklyn, 50, Arlington, Va., candy $875 million.
Annenberg, Walter Hubert, 77, Wynnewood, Pa., and Rancho Mirage, Calif., publishing, $875 million.
Haupt, Enid Annenberg, 79, New York, inheritance (publishing), $180 million.