Inez June Threet, who won a place in U.S. corporate history as the first employee hired by Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, died Monday of a heart ailment in Centerton, Ark., Reuters reported. She was 84.
Threet eventually would be joined by almost 1.5 million additional employees, or "associates," in Wal-Mart parlance, as the discount retailer grew to become one of the world's largest corporations.
"She was one of those associates in the early years who played a key role in helping my father establish his retail business," company chairman Rob Walton said in a statement. "We regret losing her very much."
Threet was hired as a clerk by Sam Walton in 1950, soon after he purchased the sundries store that is cited in company lore as the first Wal-Mart location.
In later years, she was promoted to more senior positions, and she often accompanied Walton when he inspected Wal-Mart stores. She retired in 1975.
Threet's grandson, Kenneth Threet, is a Wal-Mart truck driver.