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Monroe Dunaway Anderson (1873–1939) was a banker and cotton trader from Jackson, Tennessee. With his brother-in-law, William L. Clayton, Anderson built Anderson, Clayton & Co into the world's biggest cotton company. In the event of one of their deaths, the partnership would lose a large amount of money to estate taxes and might be forced to dissolve. In order to avoid this, Anderson created the M.D. Anderson Foundation with an initial sum of $300,000. In 1939, after Anderson's death, the foundation received an additional $19 million.
In 1941, the Texas Legislature appropriated $500,000 to build a cancer hospital and research center. The Anderson Foundation agreed to match the state funds if the hospital were located in Houston at the Texas Medical Center (another project of the Anderson Foundation), and named after Anderson.
Using surplus World War II Army barracks, the hospital operated for 10 years from a converted residence and 46 beds leased in a Houston hospital before moving to its current location in 1954.
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