“The only way I can explain it was God touched his heart.” That’s the statement Annabel Hill, then 66 in 1986, used to describe current presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump when he saved her from debt.
In 1986, Hill was at risk of losing her 1,300-acre farmland in an auction, land that had been in her family’s care for five generations. Hill and her husband had become desperate to save the Waynesboro, Georgia property. Hill’s husband, Lenard, had committed suicide eight months prior, in a last-ditch effort to save his property with life insurance money. The life insurance money wasn’t enough; it paid off only $175,000 of debts that ran in excess of around $300,000, due to two years of drought Hill said had ruined their livelihood.
That’s when real estate tycoon Donald Trump stepped in to save Hill’s farm and property.
“I saw a story on the news about Annabel Hill, who’d hit bottom,” Trump wrote in his book “The America We Deserve.” “It was a very sad situation, and I was moved. Here were people who’d worked very hard and honestly all their lives, only to see it all crumble before them. To me, it just seemed wrong.”
“The next morning, I called and got some vice president on the line,” writes Trump. “I explained that I was a businessman from New York, and that I was interested in helping Mrs. Hill. He told me he was sorry, but that it was too late. They were going to auction off the farm, he said, and ‘nothing or no one is going to stop it.'”
But that didn’t stop Trump. He further writes: “That really got me going. I said to the guy: ‘You listen to me. If you do foreclose, I’ll personally bring a lawsuit for murder against you and your bank, on the grounds that you harassed Mrs. Hill’s husband to his death.’ All of a sudden the bank officer sounded very nervous and said he’d get right back to me. Sometimes it pays to be a little wild. An hour later I got a call back from the banker, and he said, ‘Don’t worry, we’re going to work it out, Mr. Trump.’”
The auction was then stalled due to Trump’s interference, and in a 30-day period donations skyrocketed to reach the $187,000 goal necessary to pay the debt. It instantly was saved, thanks to Trump’s aid and connections.
“Financially this was obviously no big deal,” writes Trump in The America We Deserve. “But in human terms, there aren’t words to express what Annabel Hill gave to me. Most of us have a few things in life we would never give back, no matter what. Helping Annabel is that way for me.”
The following Christmas, at the atrium of Trump Tower, Trump and Annabel Hill burned her mortgage in front of reporters and cameramen as a celebration. “We give a lot of money to foreign countries that don’t give a damn about us, but we don’t help the American farmers,” Trump said to reporters at the time. Trump kept in touch with Hill for a while after the mortgage burning.
Annabel Hill passed away at the age of 91 in 2011. She said about the motives of Trump’s charity, “the only way I can explain it was God touched his heart.”
Hill’s daughter Betsy reflected upon their time with Trump in New York after he saved the farm. “It was unreal, almost like my mom was Cinderella,” Betsy told BuzzFeed News in 2015. “We couldn’t believe that we were going up to New York to actually meet Donald Trump in person and sit down and have a meal with him. He was just precious to help save our farm. It was just like we couldn’t believe it.”