Bernie Marcus: The Man Behind The Home Depot

A Portrait of Bernie Marcus.

A Quick Biography of Bernard Marcus
Key Points and Facts
Life Lessons
Questions and Answers
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The Life Story of Bernard Marcus

Bernie Marcus: A Man of Impact

Bernie Marcus is someone who has really made a mark. Born on May 12, 1929, in Newark, New Jersey, he started out with big dreams that he turned into even bigger realities.

Family Ties That Bind

Bernie was the youngest of four kids in a family of Russian Jewish immigrants. They lived in a tenement, which is a kind of apartment building that a lot of people share. It wasn’t fancy, but it was full of love.

“Nanotechnology in medicine is going to have a major impact on the survival of the human race.” ~ Bernard Marcus

Early Years: Building a Foundation

Growing up in Newark, Bernie went to South Side High School and graduated in 1947. He didn’t have a lot, but he had a family that believed in him, and that’s what really mattered.

Dreams of Medicine Turned to Pharmacy

Bernie once wanted to be a doctor. He got into Harvard Medical School! But the money just wasn’t there. So, he went to Rutgers University and studied pharmacy instead, joining a fraternity called Alpha Epsilon Pi.

Challenges Along the Way

Life wasn’t always easy for Bernie. He saw hard times and knew what it was like to struggle. But he didn’t let that stop him.

From Pharmacy to The Big Idea

Bernie Marcus started his journey in the world of retail after leaving the path of pharmacy behind.

He had a knack for this business, quickly climbing the ladder to become the CEO of Handy Dan Improvement Centers.

The Birth of The Home Depot

In 1978, something big happened. Bernie and his friends Arthur Blank, Pat Farrah, and Ken Langone started a brand new store called The Home Depot.

Their first two stores opened in Atlanta on June 22, 1979. It was a new kind of place for people to buy stuff for their homes.

“We could be the biggest pantyhose seller in America, but we don’t want to weaken the link in shoppers’ minds between Home Depot and do-it-yourself projects.” ~ Bernard Marcus

The Leader of The Pack

Bernie was more than just a founder. He was the leader, the CEO, and the chairman of The Home Depot. He helped the company grow and become really important until he said goodbye in 2002.

Standing Up for His Beliefs

Bernie wasn’t shy about what he thought. He even opposed something called the Employee Free Choice Act because he believed it wasn’t right for workers.

Politics in the Mix

He wasn’t just about selling hammers and nails. Bernie got involved in politics, too. He helped start the Job Creators Network in 2010 and supported politicians he believed in.

“When I understood the rudiments of what nanotech was all about, I knew I wanted to participate.” ~ Bernard Marcus

The Heart of Giving

Bernie made a promise to give away most of his money—like billions—to help other people. He wants to help kids, doctors find cures, soldiers, and lots of other folks through his Marcus Foundation.

A Trophy Case of Honors

People really noticed all the good stuff Bernie did. He got awards and was even called a Georgia Trustee. That’s a big deal!

A Helping Hand Across the Globe

Bernie didn’t just help people close to home. He helped start the Israel Democracy Institute and gave lots of money to make sure people in Israel could be healthy and safe.

A Sea of Change: The Georgia Aquarium

One of the coolest things Bernie did was help make the Georgia Aquarium. It’s a place where anyone can learn about fish and the ocean. He wanted to say thanks to Georgia for all it had given him.

The Power of Words

Bernie also wrote books about how to build a business from nothing. He wanted to share his story and teach others how to do great things, too.

Love and Family

Bernie’s heart was just as big as his dreams. He had marriages that taught him a lot and children and a stepson that filled his life with joy.

“I’m very politically active, but that has nothing to do with my charity.” ~ Bernard Marcus

From Pharmacy to Philanthropy

Even though he started out in pharmacy, Bernie’s path took a turn when he stepped into the world of retail. He became the big boss at Handy Dan Improvement Centers and then went on to start something huge: The Home Depot!

Giving Back: A Big Heart for Big Causes

Bernie believes in giving back. A lot. He’s said he’ll give away 90% of his billions to help others. He’s helped kids, veterans, and all sorts of important causes through his Marcus Foundation.

Honors and Awards: A Legacy of Leadership

People have really noticed what Bernie’s done. He’s won awards like the Others Award from the Salvation Army and even got named a Georgia Trustee.

Helping Hands: From Israel to Atlanta

Bernie’s done some pretty big things. He helped start the Israel Democracy Institute and gave a lot to help build the Georgia Aquarium, which is like a giant underwater world for everyone to see.

Stories to Share

He’s also a writer! Bernie co-wrote “Built from Scratch” and “Kick Up Some Dust,” telling his story and sharing the lessons he’s learned.

A Man of the People

Bernie’s always kept it real. He’s friendly, he’s honest, and he really cares about the people he works with. And he’s never too big to get involved and help out where he can.

Bernie’s Beliefs: Hard Work Wins

If there’s one thing Bernie believes, it’s that hard work is everything. He’s lived the American Dream by putting in the effort, and he’s made sure to help others along the way.

A Conclusion of Impact

Bernie’s work life was all about building up The Home Depot and helping people. He changed the way we shop for our homes and showed us how important it is to give back when you’ve been lucky.

Bernie’s name means a lot in both business and helping others. He’s a true example of hard work and a big heart.

“People used to believe only a professional could do tiling or install track lighting. That’s utter nonsense.” ~ Bernard Marcus


Key Points and Facts

  • Birth and Origins: Born on May 12, 1929, in Newark, New Jersey to Russian Jewish immigrant parents.
  • Family Background: The youngest of four children, Bernie grew up in a tenement.
  • Education Shift: Initially aspired to be a doctor, was accepted to Harvard Medical School but switched to a pharmacy degree at Rutgers University due to financial constraints.
  • Early Retail Career: Transitioned from pharmacist to retailing, became CEO of Handy Dan Improvement Centers.
  • The Home Depot Foundation: Co-founded The Home Depot in 1978 with Arthur Blank, Pat Farrah, and Ken Langone.
  • Leadership at Home Depot: Served as CEO and chairman of The Home Depot from its inception until 2002.
  • Political Stance: Opposed the Employee Free Choice Act and founded the Job Creators Network in 2010.
  • Support for Politics: Supported Donald Trump’s presidential campaigns in 2016 and 2020.
  • Philanthropic Commitment: Pledged to give away 90% of his wealth and signed The Giving Pledge and Jewish Future Pledge.
  • Marcus Foundation: Chairs the Marcus Foundation, focusing on children, medical research, military veterans, Jewish causes, and community service.
  • Community Service: Involved with the Shepherd Center and the Salvation Army.
  • Honors and Recognition: Received the Others Award from the Salvation Army, named a Georgia Trustee, and awarded the William E. Simon Prize for Philanthropic Leadership.
  • Support for Israeli Causes: Co-founded the Israel Democracy Institute and made significant donations to the MDA Marcus National Blood Services Centre in Israel.
  • The Georgia Aquarium Contribution: Contributed heavily to the establishment of the Georgia Aquarium in 2005.
  • Support for Health Causes: Founded The Marcus Institute and donated to Autism Speaks.
  • Authorship: Co-authored “Built from Scratch” and “Kick Up Some Dust,” reflecting on his business experiences.
  • Vornado to Home Depot Transition: Started in retail at Vornado and moved through executive positions until his firing led to creating The Home Depot.
  • Innovative Business Practices: Opened the first Home Depot store with unique customer engagement strategies.
  • Expansion and Growth: Took Home Depot public in 1981, which then rapidly expanded and joined the Dow Jones Industrial Average in 1999.
  • CDC Foundation Chairmanship: Served as the Chairman of the Center for Disease Control Foundation.
  • Awards for Leadership: Named Most Respected CEO by Georgia Trend magazine and inducted into the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans.
  • Personal Values: Known for friendly demeanor, respect for employees, and community involvement.
  • Entrepreneurial Philosophy: Emphasized customer service and fostered an entrepreneurial spirit within The Home Depot.
  • Economic Impact: Under Marcus’s leadership, Home Depot achieved financial success and was recognized for social responsibility.
  • Family and Marriages: Married twice, with a long-standing marriage to his wife, Billi Marcus.
  • Political Donations: Contributed significant amounts to Republican political campaigns.
  • Public Controversies: Faced backlash for political endorsements and comments about younger generations.


Bernard Marcus

  • 1929: Born on May 12 in Newark, New Jersey to Russian Jewish immigrant parents.
  • 1947: Graduated from South Side High School.
  • 1954: Graduated from Rutgers University with a pharmacy degree.
  • 1968: Became president of Odell, Inc.
  • 1970: Became vice president of Daylin, Inc.
  • 1978: Fired from Handy Dan Home Improvement Centers; co-founded The Home Depot.
  • 1979: Opened the first two Home Depot stores in Atlanta on June 22.
  • 1981: The Home Depot went public.
  • 1990: Named Most Respected CEO by Georgia Trend magazine.
  • 1991: Co-founded the Israel Democracy Institute.
  • 1999: The Home Depot added to the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
  • 2000: Inducted into the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans and the Rutgers University Hall of Distinguished Alumni.
  • 2001: Significant donation to build the Atlanta Aquarium.
  • 2002: Retired as chairman of Home Depot’s Board of Directors.
  • 2005: Awarded the Others Award from the Salvation Army; heavy contribution to the launch of the Georgia Aquarium.
  • 2009: Named a Georgia Trustee.
  • 2010: Founded the Job Creators Network.
  • 2012: Awarded the William E. Simon Prize for Philanthropic Leadership.
  • 2016 & 2020: Supported Donald Trump’s presidential campaigns.
  • 2019: His support for Donald Trump sparked a boycott of Home Depot.
  • 2022: Co-authored “Kick Up Some Dust,” debuting at the MJCCA Book Festival on November 6.
  • 2023: As of January, net worth estimated at roughly $5.5 billion.


Life Lessons

Teachable Lessons from Bernie Marcus’s Life

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Big Dreams Can Start Anywhere

  • Even if you start small, like Bernie did in a tenement in Newark, you can dream big.

Change Can Be Good

  • Bernie wanted to be a doctor but became a pharmacist and then found his real calling in retail. It’s okay to change your path.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

  • Bernie wasn’t alone in creating The Home Depot. He had help from friends like Arthur Blank. Team up with others who share your vision.

Tough Times Can Lead to Big Changes

  • Getting fired from Handy Dan wasn’t the end. It was the start of something new for Bernie—the creation of The Home Depot.

Giving Back Matters

  • Bernie made a lot of money, but he also gave a lot away to help other people. When you’re successful, remember to help others.

Stand Up for What You Believe In

  • Bernie opposed the Employee Free Choice Act because he didn’t think it was right. It’s important to stand up for your beliefs.

Respect Goes a Long Way

  • Bernie is known for treating people well. Always be kind and respectful to everyone around you.

Learn from Mistakes

  • The Home Depot had some tough times at the start, but Bernie learned from them and the company grew.

Keep Your Promises

  • Bernie pledged to give away most of his fortune, and he’s doing it. Always keep your promises.

Work Hard, But Be Nice

  • Bernie worked hard, but he also made sure to be friendly and sincere. Work hard and be nice to people.

Find Joy in What You Do

  • Bernie enjoys golf and swimming. Find things you love to do, and make time for them.

Share Your Story

  • Bernie wrote books to share what he learned. Don’t be afraid to share your story with others. It might inspire them.


FAQ for the Life of Bernie Marcus

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Where was Bernie Marcus born?

  • Bernie Marcus was born in Newark, New Jersey.

What is Bernie Marcus’s heritage?

  • He is the son of Russian Jewish immigrant parents.

How many siblings does Bernie Marcus have?

  • Bernie is the youngest of four children.

What kind of childhood home did Bernie grow up in?

  • He grew up in a tenement, which is a big apartment building where lots of families live together.

When did Bernie Marcus graduate high school?

  • He graduated from South Side High School in 1947.

What was Bernie Marcus’s dream job as a young man?

  • Bernie wanted to become a doctor.

Why didn’t Bernie Marcus become a doctor?

  • He was accepted to Harvard Medical School but couldn’t afford the tuition.

What degree did Bernie Marcus end up getting?

  • He got a pharmacy degree from Rutgers University.

What fraternity was Bernie Marcus a part of in college?

  • He was a member of the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity.

What was Bernie Marcus’s first job after being a pharmacist?

  • He became the CEO of Handy Dan Improvement Centers.

When did Bernie Marcus co-found The Home Depot?

  • He co-founded The Home Depot in 1978.

What important role did Bernie Marcus have at The Home Depot?

  • He was the CEO and chairman until 2002.

What political organization did Bernie Marcus start?

  • He founded the Job Creators Network in 2010.

What is Bernie Marcus’s political affiliation?

  • He has supported Republican campaigns, including Donald Trump’s.

How much of his fortune has Bernie Marcus pledged to give away?

  • He has pledged to give away 90% of his fortune.

What are some causes Bernie Marcus has supported through his philanthropy?

  • He has supported causes for children, medical research, military veterans, Jewish causes, and community service.

Has Bernie Marcus won any awards?

  • Yes, he won the Others Award from the Salvation Army and others.

What is the Israel Democracy Institute?

  • It is an organization co-founded by Bernie Marcus in 1991 to strengthen the democratic character of Israel.

Has Bernie Marcus written any books?

  • Yes, he co-authored “Built from Scratch” and “Kick Up Some Dust.”

Who is Bernie Marcus married to?

  • He is married to Billi Marcus.

Does Bernie Marcus have children?

  • Yes, he has three children and a stepson.

How many stores did The Home Depot have under Bernie Marcus’s leadership?

  • About 2,300 stores in North America.

What big project did Bernie Marcus help build in Georgia?

  • He helped build the Georgia Aquarium.

How much money has Bernie Marcus donated to political causes?

  • He has donated $64 million to political causes.

Did Bernie Marcus face any controversies?

  • Yes, he faced a boycott of Home Depot after announcing support for Donald Trump in 2019.

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Bernard Marcus – Wikipedia

Marcus, Bernard |

Bernie Marcus

Home Depot Co-Founder Gave to Trump, DeSantis, Decried ‘Woke’ Culture

ROBERT HUFFSTUTTER, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons