Louisville, Ky. — Col. Harland D. Sanders, who passed on here Tuesday, parlayed a social security check into a billion-dollar empire selling "finger lickin' good" Kentucky Fried Chicken. He was a sixth-grade dropout who dabbled in many callings including railroad fireman, service station operator, street-car conductor, steamboat ferry operator, and insurance salesman.
He began cooking chicken at his roadside cafe in rural Kentucky in the 1930s. But at age 66, when highway construction rendered his cafe and service station obsolete, he took to the road with a $105 social security check in his pocket, a pressure cooker in his car, and the notion that people just might like his home-style fried chicken recipe enough to buy it. Less than a decade later, he had sold 1,800 Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises and had become the godfather of fast-food franchising. In 1964 he sold what had become KFC Corporation for $2 million, but remained with the company as an advertising symbol and good will ambassador. Kentucky Fried Chicken's 5,000 US and 1,000 overseas franchised stores listed annual sales of over $2 billion last year.