Early life
John Donald MacArthur was born in Pittston, Pennsylvania.[1] MacArthur and his many brothers and sisters grew up in poverty, the children of an itinerant Baptist preacher and his resourceful wife. MacArthur's brother Charles MacArthur was an American playwright and screenwriter, best known as co-author of the play The Front Page. MacArthur's sister-in-law was the esteemed actress Helen Hayes.

Career in Illinois

MacArthur made his fortune in the insurance business; in 1935, he acquired the Bankers Life and Casualty Company for $2,500. In subsequent years, he built up a business empire through acquisitions of many small insurance corporations. In the 1950s, MacArthur signed famed broadcaster Paul Harvey to be the radio spokesperson for the company (today, the national spokesperson for Bankers Life is actor Dick Van Dyke).

Real estate investments in Florida

MacArthur also grew his vast fortune by heavily, and lucratively, investing in Florida real estate. In 1954 for $5.5 million MacArthur bought 2,600 acres (11 km2) of land in northern Palm Beach County that had been owned originally by Harry Seymor Kelsey and later by Sir Harry Oakes. The land included most of today's Lake Park, North Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens and Palm Beach Shores.[1] For many years, MacArthur conducted his business affairs from a table in the Colonnades Beach Hotel, Singer Island, Florida, where he and his wife lived in their penthouse apartment overlooking both the Atlantic ocean and Intracoastal Waterway. Marriages and family
MacArthur first married the former Louise Ingals and had two children: a son, U.S. businessman and philanthropist, J. Roderick MacArthur (1920-1984) and a daughter, Virginia MacArthur. The couple divorced in 1926. In 1928, MacArthur married Catherine T. MacArthur (née Hyland) who intimately involved herself for decades in management of his companies and for whom his charitable foundation is co-named.
John R. MacArthur, the publisher of Harper's Magazine and son of J. Roderick MacArthur, is a grandson of John D. MacArthur.

Banker's Life after his death

To avoid conflict of interest rules, the company was sold after MacArthur's death by the foundation he created. Bankers Life is today a leader in long term care insurance in the U.S. The company is today publicly held with a capitalization of approximately $6 billion. It is one of the Conseco Insurance Companies (NYSE: "CNO").