An American Icon

Some final thoughts on Dave Thomas.

He's gone now and for me, it hits hard. Not only because was one of the best chief executives I ever knew, but because he was so damn decent.

I mean this guy really was the guy in those commercials. Earnest. Offbeat. Genuine. The real thing.

He had his fortune and status, but you'd never know it. And his clothes certainly didn't reflect it. He was just an average guy, he would tell me, who loved burgers.

I had the pleasure of interviewing him dozens of times over the last nearly 20 years and each and every time he was the perfect gentleman. Not only to me — you'd almost expect that, after all, I was profiling him for TV. But to his people.

You know, they say you can tell a lot about a big guy by how he treats the so-called little guys around him.

I remember on one occasion, a production assistant on a commercial suit accidentally spilled a soda on him, disrupting the entire taping. The P.A. was petrified. Thomas just came up to him and said, "given my shirt, I think you improved it."

He put everyone at ease.

A CEO who was a human being. Who smiled and joked. At others and at himself.

And he gave back, to causes he held dear, like adoption and scores of other charities to which he lent his considerable good name.

Am I fawning a bit? Perhaps.

But there's no way I can be unbiased here. He was among the first CEOs I ever interviewed and he will always rank among the best.

Dave Thomas, dead at age 69.

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