John William Pope Foundation

Copyrighted logo for the John William Pope Foundation, a philanthropy in Raleigh, North Carolina. (link)



Tax ID:


Tax-Exempt Status:


Budget (2020):

Revenue: $9,049,085
Expenses: $12,605,782
Assets: $154,563,420




Private Foundation


John Hood

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The John William Pope Foundation is a family foundation based in North Carolina that derived its wealth from Variety Wholesalers, a regional retail store chain. Under the leadership James Arthur “Art” Pope, son of John William Pope, the Pope Foundation supports both national and North Carolina-focused center-right organizations and charities and arts organizations in North Carolina.

Art Pope also sits as chairman of the board of the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, a major right-of-center donor organization.

James Arthur “Art” Pope

John William Pope created Variety Wholesalers, which operates about 500 discount stores under the Roses and Maxway brands in the southeast United States. In 1986, Pope asked his son, James Arthur “Art” Pope, to organize the Pope Foundation. Art Pope told National Review’s John J. Miller in 2009 that his father “wanted to protect and preserve the free-enterprise system that had allowed the business to do well.” 1

Art Pope told the New Yorker, “Politically, I would describe myself as conservative, and philosophically I would describe myself as a classical liberal, which you had in John Locke, David Hume, Adam Smith, and John Stuart Mill.” 2

Pope told Miller that while the Pope Foundation supported such poverty-fighting organizations as Habitat for Humanity and the Salvation Army, “these are short-term, direct measures that treat symptoms.” He argued that if the purpose of philanthropy was “teaching a man to fish”—giving him the tools and education to rise out of poverty. He said, “teaching a man to fish presupposes that you have a right to fish and a right to keep the fish you catch. It assumes that you can take your fish to market and sell it, and use the proceeds to buy clothes for your kids.  Too many philanthropists don’t even consider that in a just and functioning society, you must have individual liberty with property rights, the rule of law, and limited constitutional government.” 3

Pope has served in North Carolina state government, including eight years as a Republican member of the North Carolina House of Representatives and as special counsel to former Governor Jim Martin (R-NC). In 2013 he spent two years as budget director for then-Gov. Pat McCrory (R).  Former North Carolina Speaker of the House Richard Morgan (R) said that as a legislator, Pope was “an old-fashioned policy wonk” who would spend hours at a time studying the state’s budget. 4 Former Republican Governor James G. Martin told the Washington Post in 2014 “there are not many people as influential” as Pope, “ because few people have invested the time and the money that he has on behalf of his state.” 5

Pope sits as member of the board of the Institute for Humane Studies and as chairman of the board of the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. 6

John Hood

Since 2014, the Pope Foundation has been headed by John Hood, who previously worked as president of the John Locke Foundation. Hood, the author of four books, announced on accepting his new position that he would continue to write a syndicated column and regularly appear om television commenting on North Carolina state politics. 7


John Locke Foundation

The Pope Foundation has created several center-right organizations.  John J. Miller notes that “in the late 1980s, the Heritage Foundation introduced Pope to the emerging effort to establish free-market think tanks in state capitals.”  Art Pope told Miller that Heritage’s drive to create state free market think tanks “led to the birth of the John Locke Foundation.” 8

The Locke Foundation has centers devoted to agriculture, education, and “public integrity,” and publishes Carolina Journal, a bimonthly newspaper. The Washington Post noted in 2014 that the foundation was “the state’s premier idea generator on the right.” 9

Higher Education

The Pope Foundation has long had an interest in reforming higher education.  In 2007 the foundation, collaborating with the Marcus and Templeton Foundations, donated a combined $5 million to establish the Center for Excellence in Higher Education, which works with donors to universities to preserve donor intent. 10

In 2003, the Pope Foundation helped establish the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, which was renamed the James G, Martin Center for Academic Renewal in 2017.  The center publishes reports such as Games Universities Play, a 2011 study by Martin Morse Wooster about preserving donor intent in gifts to colleges and universities. The center also publishes over 150 opinion pieces a year with an emphasis on resolving problems in higher education in North Carolina. 11


The Pope Foundation’s grants of $11.3 million in 2020 included grants of $2.75 million to the John Locke Foundation and $543,000 to the Martin Center for Academic Renewal.  Three center-right organizations received grants of over $100,000:  The Institute for Humane Studies ($375,000), the Mercatus Center ($135,000) and Fair Lines America Foundation ($100,000). 12


  1. John J. Miller, “The Fishermen’s Friend,” National Review, December 1, 2009,
  2.  Jane Mayer, “State for Sale,” New Yorker, October 10, 2011.For a critique of Mayer’s article see Scott Walter, “Donors, Not Puppet Masters,”: Philanthropy Daily, October 11, 2011. (accessed December 10, 2021)
  3. John Miller, “The Fisherman’s. Friend,” National Review, December 1, 2009.
  4. Margaret Newkirk, “A Tea Partier Takes Charge of North Carolina’s Budget,” Bloomberg, January 25, 2013.
  5. Matea Gold, “In N.C., Conservative Donor Art Pope Sits At The Heart of Government.” Washington Post, July 1, 2014.
  6. “Abour Art,” (accessed December 10, 2021).  “Our People,” (accessed December 10, 2021).
  7.  Colin Campbell, “John Locke Foundation’s John Hood to Lead John William Pope Foundation, Raleigh News and Observer, November 20, 2014. “John Hood,” Ballotpedia, (accessed December 10, 2021).  For a profile of Hood, see Terrence Nolan, “Thinking Out Loud, “Business North Carolina, January 1996.
  8. John J. Miller, “The Fisherman’s Friend,” National Review, December 1, 2009.
  9. Matea Gold, “In N.C., Conservative Donor Art Pope Sits At Heart of Government,” Washington Post, July 21,2014.
  10. John Hechinger, “Big-Money Donors Move To Curb Colleges’ Discretion to Spend Gifts,” Wall Street Journal, September 18, 2007.  Naomi Schaefer Riley, “Alms For The Alma Mater,” Wall Street Journal, October 13, 2007.
  11. Eric Kelderman, “Conservative Think Tank Puts Pressure on N.C.’s Colleges,” Chronicle of Higher Education, May 8, 2015.
  12. 2020 Pope Foundation Form 990.

Associated Organizations

  1. Civitas Institute (Non-profit)
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: June - May
  • Tax Exemption Received: October 1, 1986

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2020 Jun Form PF $9,049,085 $12,605,782 $154,563,420 $1 $0 $0 $0 $0
    2015 Jun Form PF $50,855,270 $10,355,507 $168,268,759 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2014 Jun Form PF $5,890,684 $8,475,852 $127,934,445 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2013 Jun Form PF $9,373,410 $10,554,990 $130,228,075 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2012 Jun Form PF $3,781,931 $10,173,720 $131,409,655 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    John William Pope Foundation

    4601 SIX FORKS RD STE 300
    RALEIGH, NC 27609-5271