By: The Dickinson Free Press – Billionaire businessman Harold Hamm has donated $50 million to the group behind the planned Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library, a massive tourism project slated for Medora, North Dakota.
Hamm, the founder of oil giant Continental Resources, emerged as one of the leading beneficiaries of western North Dakota’s oil boom in the late 2000s. The Oklahoma native has since grabbed headlines in the state for his philanthropic work, including eight-figure donations to the University of North Dakota and the University of Mary.
The hefty check Hamm has written the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation makes him the project’s leading donor. Melani and Rob Walton, of the Walmart fortune, previously committed $50 million to the project, but they later pared down their gift to $15 million.
Hamm, 77, said he is pleased to support an ambitious vision that will perpetuate the 26th president’s legacy for generations to come.
“We invest in big ideas that are built to last,” Hamm said in a news release. “The Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library will inspire Americans for centuries, not decades. Theodore Roosevelt was a person of great vision and leadership, and he was transformed during his time in North Dakota.”
The proposed library is meant to celebrate the story of Theodore Roosevelt, the one-time governor of New York who became the president of the United States in 1901. As a young man, the politician-to-be spent parts of three years hunting and ranching in present-day western North Dakota before the country came to know his outsized personality.
Ed O’Keefe, the foundation’s CEO, said Hamm’s “game-changing” donation provides a major boost to fundraising efforts for the library. O’Keefe declined to disclose how much money the foundation has raised or how much it aims to bring in, noting that he plans to divulge more financial details at a groundbreaking ceremony later this year.
The foundation now has enough cash to proceed with construction later this year, but O’Keefe emphasized that the project is not fully funded. By surpassing $100 million in private fundraising, the group unlocked a public endowment in 2020 that allows them to access the interest that accumulates on a $50 million state investment made through the North Dakota Board of University and School Lands.
Project leaders selected Norwegian-American architecture firm Snøhetta to design the library and Missouri-based J.E. Dunn to build the facility, which will sit on a 93-acre plot west of the Medora Musical’s Burning Hills Amphitheater.
O’Keefe said the foundation hopes to hold the library’s grand opening on July 4, 2026 — the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.
The project — a favorite of Gov. Doug Burgum — aims to expand tourism in North Dakota, which frequently ranks as the nation’s least visited state. The library and the adjacent Theodore Roosevelt National Park will serve as premium attractions for visitors of the Badlands, O’Keefe said.