Late Life Success
Col. Harland Sanders, founder of
Kentucky Fried Chicken
by Angela S. Hoover, Staff Writer
Harland Sanders began Kentucky
Fried Chicken out of sheer desperation at the age of 65.
This venture was not his first try as
a business owner, but it was by far
his most successful. As a gas station
operator in Corbin, Ky., Sanders at
age 40 began cooking for hungry
travelers. They ate from his own
table in the station’s living quarters. People began coming for the
food instead of the fuel, so Sanders moved across the street and
opened a restaurant, the Sanders
Café. By July 1940, after 10 years
of experimenting, he had perfected
his secret blend of 11 herbs and
spices and the pressure-cooking
technique and started selling fried
When a new interstate highway diverted traffic away from
his Corbin restaurant, Sanders
devoted himself to fully developing his franchising business. His
startup capital was money from
his first Social Security check. He
used it to go on the road looking
for restaurant owners who would
buy his fried chicken recipe. In less
than 10 years, he had more than
600 franchises. His first franchise
agreement was with Pete Harman
of South Salt Lake, Utah in 1952.
Harman’s restaurant sales tripled
the first year, with 75 percent of the
increase coming from fried chicken
sales. The Kentucky Fried Chicken
name came from Don Anderson, a
sign painter Harman hired.
Sanders sold his interest in the
business in 1964 for $2 million to
a group of investors led by John Y.
Brown, Jr., who later became the
governor of Kentucky, and Jack
C. Massey. Today the chain, now
known as KFC, has more than
15,000 restaurants in 109 countries.
Sanders was born in 1890 three
miles east of Henryville, Ind. He
was the oldest of Wilbur David
and Margaret Ann Dunlevy Sanders’ three children. Wilbur died
of a fever in the summer of 1895.
Margaret went to work in a tomato
canning factory, leaving Harland in
charge of cooking and taking care
of his younger siblings. He began
working as a farmhand at age 10.
In 1902, Margaret remarried and
the family moved to Greenwood,
Ind. Sanders argued with his step-
father and moved out in 1903. He
dropped out of school and went to
live and work on a nearby farm.
Sanders falsified his birth date to
enlist in the U.S. Army in November 1906 and was honorably
discharged after three months.
He worked various railroads jobs
and became a fireman at age 16.
In 1909 he married Josephine
King and started a family – a son,
Harland Jr. (who died in 1932
from infected tonsils), and two
daughters, Margaret and Mildred.
He divorced Josephine in 1947 and
married Claudia Price in 1949.
Sanders studied law by correspondence through the La Salle Extension University. He began practicing law in Little Rock, Arkansas,
but his legal career ended after he
got into a courtroom brawl with his
own client. He also sold life insurance for Prudential until he was
company on the
He sold his
Since 1934 Yellow/Wildcat Cab has been growing with the community
As always we are looking forward to serving you
By 1930, Sanders was working at
the Corbin gas station where he
opened his first restaurant. He was
commissioned as a Kentucky Colonel in 1935 by Gov. Ruby Laffoon
for his contributions to the state’s
cuisine. He was again commissioned as a Kentucky Colonel in
1949 by his friend, Gov. Lawrence
Wetherby, and he began donning
his signature white suit and black
Sanders remained publicly active
even in his 80s. He died of leukemia at the age of 90 in Shelbyville.
His secret recipe – written in pencil
on notebook paper – is kept in a
vault inside KFC’s corporate headquarters in Louisville.
You can sit beside a life-size statute
of Col. Harland Sanders at the
Harland Sanders Café and Museum
Yellow/ Wildcat Cab
wheelchair accessible vans
and used the money to start a
company manufacturing acetylene
lamps. This venture failed after
Delco introduced a line of electric
lamps sold on credit.