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Harland David SandersBorn September 9, 1890 Henryville, Indiana, U.S. December 16, 1980 (aged 90)Died Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.Cause of death PneumoniaNationality AmericanOccupation EntrepreneurBoard member of Kentucky Fried Chicken (founder)Religion Disciples of Christ Josephine King (divorced)Spouse(s) Claudia Price Harland David Sanders, Jr.Children Margaret Sanders Mildred Sanders Ruggles Wilbur David SandersParents Margaret Ann Sanders (née Dunlevy)
Early LifeSanders was born on September 9, 1890 in a thin-walled, four room shack ona country road three miles east of Henryville, Indiana. He was the oldest ofthree children born to Wilbur David and Margaret Ann Sanders. Sanders wasof Irish descent.]Sanders father was a mild and affectionate man who tried to make a living asa farmer, but fell and broke his back and a leg and had to give it up. For twoyears he worked as a butcher in Henryville.] One afternoon in the summer of1895 he came home with a fever and died later that day. Sanders mother tookwork in a tomato-canning factory, and the young Harland was required tocook for his family.Sanders dropped out of school when he was 12. When his mother remarried in1902 his stepfather beat him. So then, with his mothers approval, he lefthome to live with his uncle in Albany, Indiana.
Life before KFCSanders falsified his date of birth and enlisted in the United StatesArmy at the age of fifteen, completing his service commitment as amule handler in Cuba. He was honorably discharged after four monthsand made his way to Sheffield, Alabama where an uncle lived. Hisbrother Clarence had also moved there, in order to avoid his stepfather.During his early years, Sanders held many jobs, including being asteamboat pilot, insurance salesman, railroad fireman, and farmer.Sanders married Josephine King in 1908 and started a family, but afterhis boss fired him for insubordination while he was on a trip, Josephinestopped writing him letters. He then learned that Josephine had lefthim, given away all their furniture and household goods, and taken thechildren back to her parents’ home. Josephine’s brother wrote Sandersa letter saying, "She had no business marrying a no-good fellow like youwho can’t hold a job." He had a son, Harland, Jr., who died at an earlyage, and two daughters, Margaret Sanders and Mildred SandersRuggles.
CareerIn 1930 Sanders opened a service station in Corbin, Kentucky wherehe cooked chicken dishes and other meals such as country ham andsteaks for customers. Since he did not have a restaurant, he servedcustomers in his adjacent living quarters. His local popularity grewand Sanders moved to a motel with a 142 seat restaurant, laterdesignated the Harland Sanders Café and Museum. Over the nextnine years he developed his "Secret Recipe" for frying chicken in apressure fryer that cooked the chicken much faster than pan frying. In1939 food critic Duncan Hines visited Sanders’s restaurant incognitoand was so impressed he listed the place in “Adventures in GoodEating,” his famous guide to restaurants throughout the US. As hissuccess grew, Sanders played a more active role in civic life, includingjoining the Rotary Club, the chamber of commerce, and theFreemasons. In 1947, he and Josephine divorced and Sanders marriedhis secretary Claudia in 1949, as he had long desired. He was "re-commissioned" as a Kentucky Colonel in 1949 by his friend, GovernorLawrence Wetherby. Around 1950, Sanders began developing his distinctive appearance,growing his trademark mustache and goatee and donning a whitesuit and string tie. He never wore anything else in public during thelast 20 years of his life, using a heavy wool suit in the winter and alight cotton suit in the summer. He bleached his mustache andgoatee to match his white hair.
Life with KFCAt age 65, Sanders store having failed due to the then new Interstate75 reducing his restaurants customer traffic, he took $105 from hisfirst Social Security check and began visiting potential franchisees.The franchise approach was successful and in 1964 Sanders sold theKentucky Fried Chicken corporation for $2 million to a partnership ofKentucky businessmen headed by John Y. Brown, Jr. The deal did notinclude the Canadian operations. In 1965 Sanders moved toMississauga, Ontario to oversee his Canadian franchises andcontinued to collect franchise and appearance fees both in Canadaand in the U.S. (He was active in Ontario even as he aged. Forexample, his 80th birthday was held at the Inn on the Park in NorthYork, Ontario, hosted by Jerry Lewis as a Canadian MuscularDystrophy Association fundraiser.) In September 1970 he and his wifewere baptized in the Jordan River. He also befriended Billy Grahamand Jerry Falwell.In 1973, he sued Heublein Inc. — the then parent company of KentuckyFried Chicken — over the alleged misuse of his image in promotingproducts he had not helped develop. In 1975, Heublein Inc.unsuccessfully sued Sanders for libel after he publicly described theirgravy as "wallpaper paste" to which "sludge" was added.
Sanders later used his stock holdings to create the Colonel Harland Sanders Trust andColonel Harland Sanders Charitable Organization, which used the proceeds to aidcharities and fund scholarships. His trusts continue to donate money to groups like theTrillium Health Care Centre; a wing of their building specializes in womens and childrenscare and has been named after him. The Sidney, British Columbia based foundationgranted over $1,000,000 in 2007, according to its 2007 tax return.Sanders died at the Jewish Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky of pneumonia on December16, 1980. He had been diagnosed with acute leukemia the previous June. Hisbody lay in state in the rotunda of the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort after a funeralservice at the Southern Baptist Seminary Chapel, which was attended by more than1,000 people. He was buried in his characteristic white suit and black western string tie inCave Hill Cemetery in Louisville.Since his death, Sanders has been portrayed by voice actors in Kentucky Fried Chickencommercials in radio and an animated version of him has been used for televisioncommercials.The Japanese Nippon Professional Baseball league has developed an urban legend of the"Curse of the Colonel". A statue of Colonel Sanders was thrown into a river and lost duringa 1985 fan celebration, and (according to the legend) the "curse" has caused JapansHanshin Tigers to perform poorly since the incident.A manuscript of a book on cooking, which Sanders apparently wrote in the mid-1960s,has been found in KFC archives. It includes some cooking recipes from Sanders as well asstories. KFC plans to try some of the recipes, and to offer the book online