Most people are unaware that Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken was a real person. Harland Daniel Sanders, known as the face of the popular fried chicken company, was not only real, he was the chef behind the original famous fried chicken. But there are plenty of other things you might not know about the Colonel that may surprise you.
1. Colonel Sanders was not a military colonel
Colonel Sanders was a colonel, but not in the military sense. He was a Kentucky Colonel, which is an honor bestowed by the Commonwealth of Kentucky for an individual's contribution to the community, state or country. There are no duties or pay associated with the title. Other notable Kentucky Colonels are Muhammad Ali, Betty White, George Clooney, Ashley Judd, Johnny Depp, WKU’s Kenny Perry and Elvis Presley.
2. He lived a life full of failures
When Sanders was just 5 years old, his father came home from work with a fever and died later that day. Sanders' mother remarried to an abusive man and Sanders was forced to leave school in 7th grade to get away from him. As an adult he held a string of various jobs, some labor intensive, which he often got fired from, including as a fireman and an insurance salesman. He married, but later his wife left him after he was caught cheating and couldn't hold down a job. He later got a law degree, but then was fired on the job after getting into a fight with his own client.
3. He sold his chicken at a gas station
Sanders had worked as a salesman in Kentucky for Michelin Tire Company, and lost his job in 1924 when Michelin closed their New Jersey manufacturing plant. Through this connection, the general manager of Standard Oil of Kentucky offered him the chance to run his very own service station in Nicolasville, KY. After this station closed in 1930 as a result of the Great Depression, Sanders was given a service station in North Corbin, KY, rent free, in return for paying them a percentage of the profits. Sanders served chicken, as well as country ham and steak out of the service station.
4. He sold the business for $2 million
In 1964, Sanders had been so successful franchising his chicken that he decided he couldn't handle the amount of work. So he sold the business for $2 million and an annual $40,000 salary, to a group of investors.
5. He would curse in his own restaurants
Once the business was sold, the owners kept Sanders on as the corporation's goodwill ambassador and he would travel around the country visiting different restaurants. If he didn't like what he saw or ate, he would let them know, often using profanity. Sanders was known for his swear-laced outbursts. He was also quoted as saying, "This is the worst fried chicken I've ever seen," and called the gravy, "sludge."
6. He opened a competing restaurant
So disgusted at the quality of the food at KFC after he sold the franchiese, Sanders decided to open a competing restaurant called "The Colonel's Lady" after his wife. KFC sued Sanders and won their case for $1 million dollars. Sanders sold the restaurant, which now still exists in Shelbyville, KY, but as "Claudia Sanders Dinner House."
7. He died at age 90
In June of 1980, Sanders was diagnosed with acute leukemia and died the same year at Jewish Hospital in Loiusville, KY of pneumonia. Up until his death, Sanders still made appearances in his classic white suit and gotee.