Wednesday would have been Colonel Harland David Sanders' 125th birthday. You know him better as Colonel Sanders, the iconic figurehead of the KFC fast food franchise. But his life was much more than just being the head pitchman for chicken.
Was he a "real" colonel?
While Sanders did serve a stint in the Army in his youth, his title comes from the state of Kentucky. He was twice named a Kentucky Colonel by state governors for his efforts in the state. The title of "Kentucky Colonel" is akin to a knighthood given out to distinguished residents of the Bluegrass State.
Why the white suit and goatee?
After getting into his "role" as a Kentucky colonel, Sanders adopted the style of dress in the 1950s and for decades only appeared in the outfit for which he's become synonymous.
Was the colonel insanely rich?
Barely, after the chain grew from the single store to a nationwide franchise, he sold to Yum Brands in 1964 for about $2 million, plus a yearly salary to stay on as the main pitchman. However, after seeing how well Yum and other shareholders were doing, he began to get resentful of their success. Sanders later sued the company, claiming it denied him a chance to open a competing restaurant.
So what happened before the KFC empire?
Before running the gas station that sold his special recipe of fried chicken, Sanders had a long career marked by setbacks as an employee and entrepreneur. He was fired from his job at a railroad for fighting a colleague. He went to law school, but only practiced law a few years before a courtroom incident forced him out of practice. He later went on to start a riverboat company in Ohio, but did not find success, and sold it a short time later.
Wait, a "courtroom incident?" What does that mean?
Reports say Sanders was only an attorney for three years before he got into a courtroom brawl ... with his own client. That fight led him to end his law practice.
So I've heard he was part of a murder trial?
This one goes back to his time as the owner of a Kentucky gas station. Sanders and several associates got into an argument with a business rival. The rival, Matthew Stewart, allegedly kept painting over Sanders' signs at his stations. In an argument over the signs, Stewart shot and killed Robert Gibson, one of Sanders' associates. Sanders later grabbed Gibson's gun and wounded Stewart. Sanders was cleared at trial while Stewart was sentenced to prison for the killing.
The colonel had a temper!
See above for his penchant for getting into fights. He also was known to throw tantrums when a KFC served food he deemed subpar. A New Yorker profile in 1970 described the scene "If the gravy meets his low expectations, he delivers one of his withering gravy critiques, sometimes emphasizing his points by banging his cane on whatever furniture is handy."
"SNL" ran a skit when the colonel died.
From the 1980 season, Eddie Murphy and David Carradine starred in this skit of KFC lovers mourning the death of Sanders. In another "SNL" connection, alums Darrell Hammond and Norm Macdonald have played the colonel in new KFC campaigns.
The colonel complained that KFC stopped making fried chicken with his secret recipe, can I get the original anywhere?
Before he died, Sanders and his wife started a Louisville restaurant devoted to Southern cooking and his chicken recipe. That restaurant today is known as Claudia Sanders Dinner House.
I'm obsessed with the colonel, where can I learn more about him?
Where is that?
North Corbin is about halfway between Knoxville, Tennessee, and Lexington, Kentucky, on Interstate 75.
KFC created a website devoted to him.