Best known for founding fast food chicken restaurant chain Kentucky Fried Chicken (now known as KFC) Col Sanders became the company’s brand ambassador and symbol. Born Harland David Sanders (September 9, 1890 – December 16, 1980) The title ‘colonel’ was honorary – a Kentucky colonel – not the military rank.
Sanders held a number of jobs in his early life, such as steam engine stoker, insurance salesman and filling station operator. He began selling fried chicken from his roadside restaurant in North Corbin, Kentucky, during the Great Depression. During that time Sanders developed his “secret recipe” and his patented method of cooking chicken in a pressure fryer. Sanders recognized the potential of the restaurant franchising concept, and the first KFC franchise opened in Utah in 1952. When his original restaurant closed, he devoted himself full-time to franchising his fried chicken throughout the country.
The company’s rapid expansion across the United States and overseas became overwhelming for Sanders. In 1964, then 73 years old, he sold the company to a group of investors led by John Y. Brown, Jr. and Jack C. Massey for $2 million ($15.8 million today). However, he retained control of operations in Canada, and he became a salaried brand ambassador for Kentucky Fried Chicken. In his later years, he became highly critical of the food served by KFC restaurants, as he believed they had cut costs and allowed quality to deteriorate.
Before his death in 1980, Sanders used his stock holdings to create the Colonel Harland Sanders Charitable Organization, a registered Canadian charity. The wing of Mississauga Hospital for women’s and children’s care is named The Colonel Harland Sanders Family Care Centre in honor of his substantial donation. Sanders’ foundation has also made sizeable donations to other Canadian children’s hospitals including the McMaster Children’s Hospital, IWK Health Centre, and Stollery Children’s Hospital. The Toronto-based foundation disbursed $500,000 to other Canadian charities in 2016, according to its tax return filed with the Canada Revenue Agency.
Col. Sanders did not like KFC after selling the franchise and seeing what it had become.
In the late 1970s he told the Louisville Courier-Journal:
My God, that gravy is horrible. They buy tap water for 15 to 20 cents a thousand gallons and then they mix it with flour and starch and end up with pure wallpaper paste. And I know wallpaper paste, by God, because I’ve seen my mother make it. … There’s no nutrition in it and they ought not to be allowed to sell it. … crispy recipe is nothing in the world but a fried doughball stuck on some chicken.
Listen to the late Col. talk about how Jesus saved him.