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LEXINGTON, Ky. (FOX 56) – From being the man of the house by the age of six to developing and selling the chicken recipe that would become the world’s largest fast-food chicken franchise at 40, Harland Sanders was an ambassador for the American dream.

A special thanks to the History Channel and Biography’s website for providing information for this story.

On Dec. 16, 1980, Sanders died in Louisville, but his legacy goes beyond his world-famous chicken recipe.

Sanders was born on Sept. 9, 1890, in Henryville, Indiana. His father died when he was just six years old, so Sanders had to take various jobs to feed and care for his younger brother and sister, including working as a farmer, streetcar conductor, fireman, and insurance salesman.

When he was 40 years old, he was running a service station in Kentucky that also served food. Sanders’ service station was so popular, he eventually started his own restaurant featuring chicken so popular he was named a Kentucky colonel in 1935 by Gov. Laffoon.

Birth of Kentucky Fried Chicken

As the popularity surrounding his chicken continued to skyrocket, Sanders began franchising his chicken recipe in 1952.

In 1955, Sanders began traveling cross-country advertising his chicken recipe in various restaurants.

(Original Caption) Colonel Harland Sanders, the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken, is shown here as he celebrates his 88th birthday.

A biography on Sanders revealed he negotiated deals with restaurants to be paid a nickel for every chicken sold. By 1964, Sanders had more than 600 franchises and he sold his interest in the company for around $2 million.

Life after KFC

Heublein Inc. bought KFC in 1971 and the quality of their product fell off so much that Sanders began to publicly criticize the food KFC was serving.

Sanders reportedly called the chain’s gravy “slop” and called the owners “a bunch of boozehounds”. He even made plans to launch another franchise, called “The Colonel’s Lady’s Dinner House” as a competitor.

Read more “This week in Kentucky history”:

Heublein reportedly tried to block the plans, prompting Sanders to sue KFC for $122 million.

Sanders and KFC reached a settlement in court, where he received $1 million and the opportunity to give Heublein executives a cooking lesson. In exchange, he had to promise to stop slandering KFC’s food.

Sanders continued his passion for fried chicken to his final days before he eventually succumbed to a bout of pneumonia in 1980 at the age of 90.

“There’s no reason to be the richest man in the cemetery. You can’t do any business from there,” he was once credited with saying.

Other significant dates this week in Kentucky history

Adolph Rupp coached his first game with Kentucky

On Dec. 18, 1930, legendary basketball coach Adolph Rupp coached and won his first game for Kentucky. The Wildcats beat Georgetown College 67-19 in Alumni Gym after Rupp reintroduced the fast-break basketball style to Kentucky fans.

The Battle of Rowlett’s Station

During the early parts of the Civil War, Union and Confederate forces raised arms against each other in Hart County. The two sides fought over control of an iron railroad bridge. With no clear winner from the battle and estimated casualties of around 131, the Union did manage to maintain control of the bridge.


The “Battle for the Bridge” is celebrated in Hart County each September.