Kentucky Fried Politics: A Colonel Sanders Timeline

Intro and Prologue
Hi! This is my first TL, and I hope you all like it. I'm starting it today since today is the Colonel's birthday, and I'm planning on posting a chapter every Thursday or so starting next week. Questions and comments welcomed. Enjoy!

Kentucky Fried Politics: A Colonel Sanders TL


(Originally titled “President Sanders (Relax! This Isn’t Current Politics!): A KFC TL”)

By gap80
(With a giant credit of thanks to Gentleman Biaggi)

Prologue: A Brief Flash-Forward

"It always seems impossible until it is done"

– Nelson Mandela

“Consarn it! How many did we lose?”

“A lot.”

“Yes, but how many?”

“Dozens on our sides, over a thousand on their side at the least.”

"Oh, Dang-blast it,” Father’s face as turning red with rage.

“It’s a tactical victory, sir,” William commented.

Father was quick to reply, “Over a thousand, Bill! Have you forgotten what I said already?” Father groaned in frustration and returned to his spot on the couch, the situation weighing down on him like a flour sack on a runt mule. He folded his hands atop his cane as he mulled over his thoughts, venting the anger out through his nostrils until his breathing was calmer. Then he sighed to himself “Lord forgive me” before asking, “Any word on where Henry is?”

“Still waiting for a reply from his office, sir.”

Father sunk a bit in his seat. To me, he had a look that for most of his life he had rarely ever worn, but was wearing the look more and more often every day, it seemed. He looked like he was lost for what to do next.

I took a seat beside him, “Don’t worry, Pop. We’ll figure this out.”

Father turned to me with concern swimming in his eyes, “Do you remember when you had your tonsils removed, son?”

“Vaguely,” I answered, “I remember only being awake for half of the time that I should have been.”

“You got very sick. An infection, I think. I don’t know if it was somehow some common mistake or if the doctor was an idiot and he made a mistake. Maybe he didn’t wash his hands, maybe he wasn’t as careful as he should have been. But I remember how sick you got, I remember your fever, and the color leaving your face. For days you were bedridden and in and out of consciousness. I’ve been through a lot of things in my life, and that was the most terrifying of them, both then and even now. I was so frightened that I would lose you, my son. I tongue-lashed that doctor somethin’ fierce over it, I was so angry and frightened.” He rubbed his brow with his hand, “But all the shoutin' in the world couldn't keep me from feeling so…useless. I didn’t know what to do to help you. I kept thinking, ‘Oh Lord, why can’t I do anything? I can’t save my son.’ All I could do was pray. But then, by some chance, by some miracle, you recovered [1]. As simple as that, your color returned to your face and the illness left.”

“Maybe your anger scared the doc into workin’ better to save me,” I suggested.

“Maybe,” Father replied, “but that’s the thing. We can never know if something will work or make something happen until after the thing has happened. We tried this approach here, and it hasn’t worked. In my opinion, the situation is now worse. They could now be even more reluctant to sit down with us…one thousand, my god…”

After a brief moment of thought, I commented, “we fought fire with fire, but it wasn’t the right fire.” My eye wandered over to the picture of George Washington hanging on the wall nearby, and I commented, “You know, you remind me a lot of him, Father. He swore like a madman and still found glory in the darkest of times through sheer resilience. Crossing the Delaware in the frigid cold and all that.”

Father suddenly lifted in head in revelation, “By gummit, that’s it!”

“What is?”

“Junior, how’d we win the Revolutionary War? By standing in orderly lines? No, that’s what the British did and they lost! Gentlemen!” He now turned his attention to his other advisers, huddled around at the main table.

“Yes sir!” they all barked.

“We have to try a more effective approach. We tried to go in there with our most advanced tools and this was the response,” holding up one of the photos. “No, no, we have to be more clandestine. Gentlemen, I think we need to seriously organize an 'un-criticize-able' response to this mess. We need to tweak our traditional approaches. But not only that! There’s also something else on my mind.”

“You got some ideas, Pop?” I asked curiously, a small grin forming on my face.

“Oh, just wait, Junior,” Father chuckled, “Like my chicken before it’s fried, we ain’t licked yet!”

– Harland David “Harley” Sanders Jr., In the Thick of It: The Story of The Colonel and His Son, Sunrise Publishing, 1991

[1] The POD:


But what exactly is this "mess" that the Colonel is referring to?
...You'll find out eventually... :biggrin:
This could be interesting....subscribed
I hope it will be interesting...thanks!
Will the Colonel run against John Y Brown or Happy Chandler?
I'm not going to spoil my own TL, but I will tell you that he will meet and interact with both of them

I literally only told him what day to post on​
Indeed I did!

You also helped with choosing the title, the title card, with ironing out the details of the POD and with planning out key plot points! Don't sell yourself short; you were a big help! Thank you! :)
Will Harland Sanders promote himself from Colonel to Generalissimo Sanders?

Lol, maybe... :p
Very much watched. One thing I do have to ask, will Sanders be racist in this timeline? I was actually pondering this question last week and my (admittedly not too in-depth) research didn't seem to turn any evidence that he was racist. Well, other than the fact that George Wallace considered him as a running mate, but there doesn't seem to be any evidence that Sanders himself was enthralled by the idea of running with Wallace.
There's no evidence suggesting he was racist that I could find. In fact, I found more to suggest that he was pretty progressive and forward-thinking for his time (which I'll cover in more detail in upcoming chapters). IMO, Wallace likely offered it to him not due to racial views but more likely because of The Colonel's fame, businesses success, being a known Republican (so the ticket would have been more bipartisan in nature had it unfolded that way I guess) and most likely because of his OTL comments regarding protestors and J. Edgar Hoover, which will also be covered in an upcoming chapter as well.

Thanks for all the comments and positive feedback, everyone! I really appreciate it!

5/2/2021 EDIT: Also, here’s a link to a photos thread for this TL, created on 3/1/2021 by @PNWKing:
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Perhaps he parlays the Kentucky governorship into an ambassadorship? I don’t think he was going to be on the Wallace ticket.
Very much watched. One thing I do have to ask, will Sanders be racist in this timeline? I was actually pondering this question last week and my (admittedly not too in-depth) research didn't seem to turn any evidence that he was racist. Well, other than the fact that George Wallace considered him as a running mate, but there doesn't seem to be any evidence that Sanders himself was enthralled by the idea of running with Wallace.
Chapter 1: December 1950 – April 1955
Chapter 1: December 1950 – April 1955

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why”

– Mark Twain

I really do not think that I will ever forget how fateful the day before my 1950 recommissioning was. Early that December morning, Junior, who was staying over with us at the time, reminded me in the morning that I had to go to the bank to check out my taxes so I could avoid the chaos I had gone through earlier in the year in April. I came back about an hour or two later with what must have been a very pale complexion, because when I walked in, Claudia bolted to fetch me some water.

“What’s wrong?” I remember her asking as she handed me a cup.

“I’ve realized something,” was my response. See, I had made a very startling discovery at that bank, and had to talk to the bank teller and one of the men from one of the side rooms to confirm it. “As it turns out, if we lost all of this,” I stretched out my arm as I stood up to go to the window overlooking our mighty Sanders Court and Café, “this restaurant and everything, we’d be penniless.”

At the bank, they were touting the ending of Social Security’s 1-percent payroll tax on the first $3,000 of annual earnings. They were spouting all of this financial hoo-haw about the program’s many new new benefits (an increase of 77%, apparently). About how the program’s benefit payments were under 1 percent of the nation’s GDP but rising (and I had no idea what that meant at the time), and how only 1 in 50 Americans actually received Social Security [1]. New parts for Social Security created by President Truman back in August of that same year were expected to make it so 9 or 10 million more workers were getting covered by the program [2]. But the number of people in the workforce over 64 was dropping, and the program was acting accordingly [3]. Curious, I asked what this all meant to me; “How much would I make if I retired today?” After several minutes to doing their math, I was shocked by the numbers. “If we didn’t have the restaurant, we’d have to live off of a monthly Social Security check of merely 92 dollars and 81 cents [4]!

I could not live off that, nor could my Claudia. My wife did not deserve to scrimp, nor did she like to. All my early life I had been dirt-poor, and after finally becoming comfortable, I was not willing to give up any of it. It would be like it had all been for nothing, to revert back to those conditions. I couldn’t allow it!

But those numbers frightened me, and I was anxious to do something about them, “I’m thinking of expanding our business, but I’m not sure how.”

“You’re worried about a silly hypothetical, Harland!” I remember my wife telling me.

I disagreed, “I just want to know that we aren’t keeping all of our eggs in one basket with this place.”

I would have kept talking on about it if the whole thing hadn’t taken up so much time at the bank. And Claudia and I had to get ready for the recommissioning. On the drive up, I figured, while we were there, I might as well ask my ol’ friend Wetherby [5] about it.

– Colonel Sanders’ Life As I Have Known It Has Been Finger-Lickin’ Good, Creation House publishing, 1974

Now I can’t remember exactly when I befriended the Colonel, but I do recall being on a first-name basis with him by the time I became Governor. Of course, even before then, he was fairly well known across the state – at least in restaurant circles – for his café in Corbin. He had been for many years by then. But, uh, still, I like to think that I somehow contributed to his rise to greater fame in some small way at the beginning of it all.

– Former Governor Lawrence Wetherby (D-KY) in CBS Interview, 1965

“Thank you all for showing up to this here commissioning. Actually, I should say re-commissioning. See, I was originally commissioned in 1935 by Governor Ruby Laffoon for the same reason as now – my menu over at my gas station and restaurant, which is now a motel, too. I hope you’ve all been to it, by the way! But anyway, in the years since that time I seemed to have misplaced the official commission document, so I asked my good friend here, Governor Wetherby, to recommission it for me. So now, I guess this makes me a Colonel twice over!” After this brief speech I mingled with the people gathered around for the event. But really, I wanted to talk to Wetherby. I tried and failed to pry him away from several chatterers until I finally cornered him at the small buffet table over to the side of the room. Quickly, I told him about my financial fear, that I had nothing to fall back on without the restaurant. “I need a safety net of sorts.”

“What about your family, Harland? Doesn’t your wife work with you in the restaurant business?”

“No,” I explained, “Claudia used to run the restaurant when I worked at that federal government cafeteria down in Tennessee during World War Two [6]. But I don’t want her to have to keep on workin’ now that we’re older – and I don’t want her to be laborin’ on after I’m gone. She deserves to enjoy her autumn years. Besides, I learned long ago to not mix business with pleasure, on account of that’s how I lost my first wife.”

Wetherby didn’t seem to hear that last bit over his disapproving of the buffet’s repulsive-looking salad, but he continued on, “I thought you had children, Harland. Any of them in the cookin’ business?”

I shook my head. “My daughters are too busy with their own lives. My oldest, she’d rather work with clay than with cookery [7]. My youngest, she’s keen on helping, sure, but she’s raising a family of her own right now. I don’t trust either of their husbands, to tell you the truth. And my two stepchildren ain’t interested in cookin’ at all.”

“Oh, I get that, uh, the son-in-law…part” Wetherby said while picking up a crumbly donut, wincing at it for a second, and quickly putting it back. “But what about your son, Junior? I just saw him the other day; he seems to be doing better.”

I thought for a moment, “Oh, Junior’s got enough of his own problems. His back’s still out of commission from Utah Beach. So is his busted leg from the last fire he fought. And his wife just left him, so, really, he’s struggling...” I thought back to all his misfortunes and sacrifices, “You know, Junior gave up college to hold down a job during the Depression, but he’s finally going now. He started this semester and, uh…” At this moment I noticed Wetherby’s eyes focusing on some sort of slimy-looking sandwich. “Lawrence, that there turkey troublin’ you?”

“Hm? Oh, I’m sorry, Harland. It’s just that, well, look at all this! I wouldn’t serve any of this to my huntin’ dogs! Who catered this event?” At this point I think I saw an idea light up Wetherby’s face, as he said, “Say! You know, Harland, if you’re looking to make some more money, and if you’re interested, you could expand into catering!”

I thought for a second and replied with “It’s not a bad idea, but where would I start?”

Wetherby answered, “Well, we’re having a state Democrats event back here in two weeks, maybe you could provide the eats. Here,” pulling out a pen and one of his business cards, and began scribbling on the back, “Ask for my secretary. You’ve met her. I’ll tell her to expect your call and you can set up the specifics with her.” He slipped the card into my hand and tucked the pen away right before another guest walked over. As the two of them departed, I took a look at the card and wondered what the job could lead to.

– Colonel Sanders’ Life As I Have Known It Has Been Finger-Lickin’ Good, Creation House publishing, 1974

The job was catering a government event in Frankfort, the state capitol a fair drive north of our Corbin home. I remember there were two events, one in the morning and one in the evening, but I don’t recall what they were for. Some political hogwash, I suppose. Regardless, for the morning event, we set up a spread of food carefully driven up from our restaurant: delectable honey biscuits, wheat cakes, and various light sandwiches. And for the later event, which I remember attending as it had something to do with business development or something like that, we served pork chops with home fried potatoes, honey-glazed ham, ham biscuits, and, of course, my husband’s famous delicious chicken. Harland and I also made several pies ranging from the pudding-like spoonbread to the classic pecan.

And the catering gig was highly successful – oh, the attendees left nothing on their plates! One portly patron exclaimed, “You fellas sure know how to cook!” while piling chicken pieces onto his plate! A large crowd formed around the table near the end as the folks tried to take as much home as they could, each person practically salivating over our creations. At one point, as I served the gentleman from before his second slice of pecan pie, a young attendee remarked, “This food is fantastic! You should do catering more often, Sanders.” And Harland replied, with a bold and somewhat distant tone, “Actually, I have a different idea.” Turning to me, he added, “Claudia, if this chicken can catch on over here, why not elsewhere, too?!”

– Claudia Price Sanders, TNB (Trinity National Broadcasting) interview, 1979

A 1946 Ford can hold a lot in its trunk – in this case, it held a custom-modified boiler, a rack of spices, some cake flour and oil, and an icebox filled with several cuts of chicken, with room to spare! My car had seen many roads with me already, but it still had a long ways to go before retiring to the junk-heap.

“Be careful, Pop, and remember to let Ma drive whenever you get tired” I remember Junior telling me as Claudia and I hopped in. For the first few weeks it would be just the two of us together travelling Kentucky’s roads.

“Well don’t none of you all bury the business while we’re gone!” I joked before assuring him I heard him, and knew that he and Millie could keep the place from burning to the ground for a few days or so. We then said our farewells and headed north, first to London and East Bernstadt.

At each stop I would give a sales pitch – I would just show up, almost always unannounced, and after a quick inspection, I would make my chicken for the owners or chef, right then and there. If they liked it, we would enter a simple handshake agreement, that they would give me 4 cents for every piece of my chicken they sold. It was the chicken-making process that would coax them – as stated before, I first discovered in the early 1940s that cooking chicken in a pressure cooker tweaked into being a pressure fryer was much quicker than iron frying the birds, and made them taste much better than them deep-fried birds. It seemed nobody else had caught on to that yet, which was more than fortunate for me!

The idea to franchise my flagship food – my specially-pressured chicken – came to me at the catering event. The second government meeting was a discussion on local gas stations and the oil companies, harkening me back to my younger days, back to when I first started running a service station in Nicholasville, after meeting the general manager of Standard Oil of Kentucky by chance in 1924 [6]. Gas was the first industry to widely use the franchising form of business, getting already-established stations to sell engine-runner for them. I’d seen it in action and I knew how well it worked. And I was confident that franchising chicken to already-established eateries could work well, too, assuring us financial security for our twilight years.

Our travels during the early years of KFC were unforgettable, even with the trouble I have nowadays of remembering some parts. But I do remember the important parts. We stayed largely inside the state over tax concerns – it was just easier that way. Right before starting our venture, Wetherby convinced us it would increase revenue for the state if word of mouth of “Kentucky’s unique and wonderful chicken” spilled past state lines. Ol’ Lawrence also hoped that, even in some small way, it might even slow down the number of Kentucky residents moving out of state in then-recent years [8].

Originally, I never travelled too far with Claudia, but with Junior keeping an interest in the goings-on at the restaurant (“just until the right job for me shows up,” he kept telling me) while also taking college courses, I found myself trusting him more and more with the Court and Cafe's day-to-day operations. That trust allowed me to do more traveling with Claudia, in turn allowed the two of us to visit more places. The roads to the coal-mining towns of the state did a number on the Ford; Claudia loved the rolling hills found in the north of the state, though, so we traveled down those smoother roads a bit more often.

Now, selling the chicken didn’t start off as well as I hoped it would. My proposal was rejected many times, often because the pressure fryer seemed too dangerous or high-maintenance – both, understandable complaints that would later hound me like huntin’ dogs on a jackrabbit – but many other times, the proprietors just didn’t understand why I would take a handshake instead of signing on some paper. But I did business with an old fashioned handshake because of what it represented. To me, it was all about trust – if I was a man of my word, so would they be. You’d be surprised by how long a ways honesty and decency can go. At least when it comes to chicken.

– Colonel Sanders’ Life As I Have Known It Has Been Finger-Lickin’ Good, Creation House publishing, 1974

In the early days my mind was elsewhere. The pain and discomfort from the burn wounds. Wherever on Earth my ex-wife was. What my next job would be. When I was going to pay back all these loans. Because of all of this, I approached Millie and tried to convince her to get more involved at the Court and Café. To sort of help me carry the weight. I knew she’s say yes, because Millie Sanders always likes a challenge. When Father returned from his first round of what was to be many trips around the state to check on how we were minding the store, he was noticeably impressed with Millie’s handling of some things. I remember asking him about his trip. “No biters,” he admitted, “But we’ll try again starting after Sunday.”

Millie ended up proving herself helpful in areas outside the restaurant, too. That next week, Millie helped me with organizing tax documents and coordinating workers during the café’s heavy lunch hour. Impressed further by this, Father asked her “You sure you aren’t going to, uh, burn out, Millie? Maybe you should take it easy.”

Her rebuttal was bold and clear, but with a smile: “I’m still raising three kids, Pop. Motherhood is a crash course in organizing, where keeping things in check and in line, and testing your resolve in the face of stress and pressure is a daily requirement. Trust me, Pops, I can handle this.”

Enjoying seeing his children having such determination, Father grinned with pride from ear to ear and chuckled. “You sure can, Mildred!”

– Harland David “Harley” Sanders Jr., In the Thick of It: The Story of The Colonel and His Son, Sunrise Publishing, 1991

It is often said that Harland’s chicken was rejected 1,009 times before it was first accepted [9]. Let me finally put that ridiculous rumor to rest – it was not 1,009 times, but somewhere between six-hundred- or seven-hundred-and-nine times, I’d say.

…Oh, we went everywhere – across the whole state, from the plains to the mountains, from the high-class restaurants in the cities to the humble diners in the country. We visited potential buyers in Richmond, Morehead, Campbellsville, Hodgenville, the peculiarly-named towns of Burning Springs and Hazard, and even the city of Lexington, all without success. But Harland wasn’t desperate. Once, we stopped over at some greasy spoon somewhere later than planned, as they were closed up for the night when we got there. Still curious, Harlan went around back while I waited in the car. A minute later, I saw Harland darting back to the car, and immediately told me how through the back window he could see how filthy their kitchen was; “no chicken deserves to be served here!” he declared.

…With each failure, Harland tweaked his sales pitch. He practiced the swiftness of his moves and his preparedness. He enhanced his style and persona by presenting himself as a wise old gentleman and calling himself “Colonel,” a title he embraced after the second commissioning. He was becoming more professional with each passing rejection until finally we reached that six-hundred- or seven-hundred-and-ninth spot, a family-run diner in outside of Danville, near the very heart of the state. That family is rich now, and they still frequently comment with a grin how sorry the six-hundred- or seven-hundred-and-eight people before them must have felt about rejecting Harland’s offer once KFC caught on! I mean, many of them later became franchisees once the chicken increased in popularity, yes, but it was still good for a laugh.

– Claudia Price Sanders, TNB (Trinity National Broadcasting) interview, 1979

It was now the beginning of the summer of 1951, and I was travelling across the rugged hills of the Cumberland Plateau, along the same roads that once made up the old Dixie Highway, and would soon be made up into I-75. When traveling alone, I would sleep in the car, sometimes with the windows down, as these were back in the day when petty crime was not a concern like nowadays, at least not in those parts of Kentucky. For food, I’d subsist on the chicken made during the demos to cut down on expenses as much as possible. I was roughing it, but never doubting my goal – to create a security blanket for Claudia and I’s retirement.

…It had been a long time of trying, but my chicken was slowly becoming a hit around the state. Leave it to good ol’-fashioned Kentucky word-of-mouth to make it so, before too long, potential franchisees knew exactly who I was the moment I told them my name!

– Colonel Sanders’ Life As I Have Known It Has Been Finger-Lickin’ Good, Creation House publishing, 1974

After months of living on the road, Father took a short break from driving to do some running. The 1951 campaign for state senate was set for August 4, and he figured that if the chicken franchising idea didn’t work, perhaps a brief career in the state legislature would help him better understand how to better ensure his family’s savings long-term. On election night, the margin was incredibly narrow, but Father was not the victor. He threw it up to him not campaigning enough for it. In retrospect, though, that failure was a blessing in disguise. It kept his intermittent interest in politics alive. It wasn’t his first run for office [10] and I could tell he didn’t want it to be his last. The narrow loss gave him the courage to be active in politics again if a time came for it later, because he believed that if he ever ran again, he’d know from this experience how to run better. That if he ever ran again, he would win.

– Mildred Sanders Ruggles’ My Father, The Colonel: A Life of Love, Politics, and KFC, StarGroup International, 2000


[ imgur: SK1kvoU ]
– Sanders political campaign poster, 8/4/1951

On November 26, 1951, father was in his den, going over his plans for traveling through the state during the winter, deciding to focus on the less mountainous parts until the spring thaw set in, when the phone rang. We both ran to it, but he was quicker. He then regretted answering when he heard it was my mother. But then his face went from showing annoyance to sadness.

“What’s wrong, Pop” I asked.

“Your Uncle Joe, um, he died yesterday [11].”

“Oh, no.”

Father returned to the phone receiver, “Yeah, uh-huh. Yeah, 59, that’s awful, I kind of liked him…” Then the two then started arguing. After several minutes of exchanging insults, retorts, and rebuttals, Pop got one insult too many, and slammed the phone down in a huff.

I remember their divorce was shocking to me and my sisters, while both of our parents seemed resigned and accepting of it all. Years of conflict, tension and resentment had nearly exploded like a mishandled pressure fryer, but the two had managed to keep the divorce proceedings mostly civil for our sakes. It possibly was their way of making up for not being so civil during the preceding years.

Pops was always restless while Mom was most comfortable nestled into one spot, so maybe it was meant to happen. The two of them may have just been too different from one other. I remember them fighting often when we were younger. One of their biggest fights occurred during my near-fatal tonsils operation in 1932. The two of them responded to death differently. "Maybe that was the start of this fight, too," I remember thinking when they told us that they were divorcing. But despite all of what had split them up, a small piece of what brought them together still remained: after father finally slammed the phone down, he paused for a few moments to see if Mother would re-dial.

Pop saw I was still there, and I guess he figured he should say something. “You know, I didn’t really know your mother when we married. We were both two youngin's that just went to the same movie-house. We were, well, we were kids, and before we really understood what we were getting ourselves into, we were married kids. Then we were married with kids before we really even knew what hit us!” [12]

“Millie recently told me that Ma once said that she never wanted any children,” I decided to just cut to the chase concerning the thought buzzing around my head like a horsefly on a donkey butt for the past few days.

“Only at the beginning!” Father defended Mother. “After we got married, she told me only then that she didn’t want to be overwhelmed by maternal obligations. But, she thought that resolve alone could stop nature. Margaret was born just 40 weeks after our wedding night, y’know!” [12] He chuckled, “But you know what? I’ve never regretted our marriage, because it gave us you and your sisters. Never forget, son, a mistake can always be a blessing in disguise if you respond to it in the right way.”

– Harland David “Harley” Sanders Jr., In the Thick of It: The Story of The Colonel and His Son, Sunrise Publishing, 1991

Kentucky Fried Chicken was built on the efforts of one old man tirelessly driving around to back-road diners nearly as decrepit as himself. He would get himself booked onto local TV shows in order to promote the opening of some new franchise, and he would…hand drumsticks out to members of the audience. He was a natural performer and began filling his everyday speech with the backwoods slang he’d been at pains to shed when he thought the insurance world [in which he once worked] didn’t approve of it [13]. But the Colonel was moving up from his insurance days of the 1920s. By 1952, Sanders’ chicken was becoming a common weekend dish for many Kentuckians. However, the Colonel would push outside of Kentucky’s borders after seeing the quick success of his chicken in Utah…

– Josh Ozersky’s Colonel Sanders and the American Dream, University of Texas Press, 2012

I first met Pete Harman and his lovely wife Arline at a convention that the National Restaurant Association held in Chicago, Illinois in 1951. It was one of the few non-KFC-related trips that Claudia and I had made that year, and I'm glad we did. Pete and I found we got along fine over our shared disapproval of the vice of alcohol. ...On August 3, 1952, Claudia and I were driving to California to catch a plane for a Christian retreat in Australia, where I hoped I would finally cut out my constant swearing [14][15]. The retreat didn't work, but it didn't hurt to try. Which brings me to my next point - that when were passing through Utah on our way to California, I figured, well, “why not give franchising out here a try?” I approved of Pete's work ethic. I liked the man’s establishment – a fancy hamburger stand called the Do Drop Inn – and I liked the cut of the jib of the humble Utahan who ran it. It was the farthest place from Kentucky at which my chicken had ever been sold at the time. But as it turned out, working with Harman proved to be a crucial catalyst for KFC.

– Colonel Sanders’ Life As I Have Known It Has Been Finger-Lickin’ Good, Creation House publishing, 1974

This stocky man with a shock of white hair and peculiar greying goatee graciously came around back with a business proposition. It took me a moment to remember him, it but the recognition clicked as soon as he referred to himself as “Colonel Sanders," and I was elated to re-make his acquaintance.

"Say, how about you let us treat you and the misses to dinner tonight?" I remember asking him. "We can go to the Log Haven restaurant over in Millcreek Canyon, and you can see our Wasatch mountains - they're a real sight to behold."

"I've got an even sight for ya, Pete," The Colonel replied, "The thing that'll give ya a long line of eager and happy customers spillin' in through those doors over there."

He offered to franchise to me a product that he was calling “Colonel Fried Chicken.” As the Colonel started the pressure fryer, he explained that Bertha was his nickname for his first pressure cooker. The Colonel added pressure relief valves to Bertha and then spent years experimenting with various marinades, oils, temperatures and the like; “I guess you could can me a scientist or an engineer for that,” he said, “I got a patent for the design so at least I can be called an inventor [16].” He then pulled out an opaque packet, some flour, and the chicken. I carefully studied his device and how quickly he prepped the birds, eager to impress a business colleague and potential business partner. “Now here’s the part that puts my chicken above the rest,” he explained as he grabbed the packet, “a mixture of eleven spices and herbs that I perfected way back in 1939 [17]. If you don’t mind, I’d like to keep it a trade secret, you understand.”

He surprised me with how quickly the chicken was cooked, and I remember being wowed upon my first bite of his heavenly crunchy chicken. I decided to give it all a try, and I am so glad I did. Because in just a few months, we really did have long lines of customers, each one waiting for and looking forward to their turn to order. Cars lined up and down the street many-a-time. And sales at the Do Drop Inn tripled in the first year, with 75% of that increase stemming from the selling of the Colonel’s Chicken [18]!

Soon I began maintaining regular contact with the Colonel, first as a business partner, but soon enough as a friend. A major idea that I – well, a sign painter of mine named Don Anderson [19] – contributed to his creation was the name, by switching the Colonel for Kentucky, since southern cuisine in Utah was a rarity back then. It gave it an exotic aura of sorts that caught local attention better. Soon enough, sales of the chicken were so successful that I had a huge sign erected over my diner saying “Kentucky Fried Chicken!”

– Pete Harman, 60 Minutes interview, early 1992

As the traveling and franchising continued, I found myself more and more taking a liking to being called Colonel and being treated like the Southerly Gentleman type, so I decided to change my look to better match the man I wanted to be. I started wearing a string tie and a sharp black suit, and I started using a fancy cane like the man on the monopoly board game. I also decided I wanted make myself look older and wiser, so I dyed by spotted grey beard and moustache to match the snow already on my head.

– Colonel Sanders’ Life As I Have Known It Has Been Finger-Lickin’ Good, Creation House publishing, 1974


[ imgur: wpB3hY3 ]
– Sanders and Harman, c. early 1952

At first I didn’t think he was serious about wearing the old-timey outfit all hours of the day, but he started wearing the getup every time we were in public, whenever we went to family events and activities, and even at places when someone, anyone, could have just decided to drop on by. But I never thought he was silly. In fact, I thought he looked handsome and dignified. I even started to wear a matching ante-bellum dress when joining him on trips around the state, in order to complete the look.

– Claudia Price Sanders and interviewer, TNB (Trinity National Broadcasting) interview, 1979


[pic: ]

– Sander's business card, c. mid-1952

A lot of people don’t know this, but I was the one that convinced him to switch from a black suit to a white one.

And why did you do that?

Because whenever he’d make the chicken, flour stains would end up on his coat! White cotton clothing breathes in a kitchen and can hide such stains much easier, too. Harland embraced the look; he took to it like a duck taking to water. By early 1952, he was using two kinds of the outfit: a heavy wool white suit in winter and a light cotton white suit in the summer.

Yes, many of the Colonel’s aides have said that they never saw him wear anything other than his iconic outfit.

Oh, that sounds about right. Even after stepping out of the bath, all the bathroom towels were either white or white with black details! By, I’d say, the Summer of 1952, the iconic ‘colonel’ image we all remember him by today was present and staying.

– Claudia Price Sanders and interviewer, TNB (Trinity National Broadcasting) interview, 1979

By the end of 1952, Father had fully transitioned from being “Harland” into being “The Colonel.”

– Margaret Sanders’ The Colonel’s Secret: Eleven Herbs and a Spicy Daughter, StarGroup International, 1997


[ imgur: IKIkwya ]
– Colonel Sanders on the road, c. late 1952 (photo likely taken by Claudia)


By Harold H. Harris and Richard J. Roth

Dwight D. Eisenhower has scored a smashing victory tonight, being elected the 33rd President of the United States and ending the 20-years Democratic control of the White House. The former General defeated Democratic nominee Adlai E. Stevenson by a popular vote and electoral college margin that even his most enthusiastic supporters had not dared to predict. Cracking the "Solid South" for the first Republican triumphs below the Mason-Dixon Line since 1921, Eisenhower won or was leading in 38 states with a total electoral vote of 431. ...The popular vote - currently incomplete - was Eisenhower in first place with 28,434,963 votes and Stevenson in second place with 22,871,179 votes. Never before in American history has a candidate received so many votes for the Presidency, and never before have as many persons journeyed to the polls to cast their ballots. The previous individual record vote was 27,476,673 set by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936. Four years later, 49,901,835 Americans went to the polls in the Roosevelt-Willkie election, and in doing so established the previous total voting record. ...Whether Eisenhower's tremendous landslide swept a Republican-controlled Congress into office is still in doubt as late returns continue to trickle in. At the time of this publication, the G.O.P. was leading, but only by five seats, in the fight to wrest control of the House from the Democrats. Republicans had won 199 House seats and were leading in contests for 24 others for an indicated total of 223, five more than the 218-seat majority...

– The Brooklyn Eagle, 11/5/1952 [20]

“I remember when KFC outlets started poppin’ up in our corner of Kentucky. It was in, I want to say, 1953 or so, and we’re in Appalachia territory, see, very mountainous, so if you’re driving around up there or opening up a store up there, you have to know what you’re. You have to know the area. And the Colonel knew how to work around the place. He was a mountainous type himself, though you wouldn’t be able to tell from just lookin’ at ’im.”

So can you tell us what your first experience eating KFC was like?

“It was good! It was actually at this one restaurant at Wheelwright Junction, right off of Route 122, not too far from the Cardinal Country Store. Part of some kind of tie-in offer. I thought the stuff was delicious. And because it was convenient to get good chicken so easily, I remember going back there to get some KFC every Sunday for dinner, time and time again.”

– Mary Woodson, former resident of Pikeville, KY, 1991 interview

As the enterprise grew, Harland continued to run the company’s business specifics concerning travelling and selling to new franchisees both on the road and in Corbin, while the children and I would mix and ship the spices to the growing list of restaurants, even running to the train station to see the shipments off on midnight deliveries every now and again. Soon enough, we had to expand our number of employees to beyond just family.

– Claudia Price Sanders, TNB (Trinity National Broadcasting) interview, 1979

Throughout the year 1953, Sanders began to expand his franchise locations to places outside of Kentucky, emboldened by praise from his chicken, especially from Harland Junior (or Harley, as he began to be called a different name at around this time as well! Apparently, according to a 1963 interview, the "label change" had something to do with there being another person named "Junior" in one of his college classes, but Harley quickly grew fond of the new nickname and it simply stuck).

Contemporary reviews in various forms of literature – food magazines, travel guides, and cuisine booklets – commended the quality of the Colonel’s chicken and gravy, along with more items such as Colonel Biscuits (honey biscuits made with zesty spices and healthy herbs, a creation of Harley and Claudia's design and work) as the year progressed. At the same time, local and regional worker unions praised Sanders for his choice in workplaces, albeit were sure to also comment on the occasional accusation of the Colonel having “a mean temper when provoked.” However, these accusations, at least at the time, were dismissed by most as slander from competitors wishing to replicate the Colonel’s successful introduction of chicken into the fast-food industry.

– Josh Ozersky’s Colonel Sanders and the American Dream, University of Texas Press, 2012

I worked at one of The Colonel’s first South Carolina franchises for over ten years, beginning in 1953. Down there it’s nearly impossible for someone like me to get a job working at a white man’s diner, but The Colonel never struck deals with them hatin’ types. Sanders cared more if you were a good worker than if you were a black worker or a white worker. You know, that’s why I hate it when I hear rumors that The Colonel was a racist because that is a lie through and through. I met The Colonel, and I learned from him how to make the chicken. One time, some customer started giving my boss flack for hiring black people instead of white people just when The Colonel was visiting. I tell you, he gave that customer such a yellin’! Told him the skill of the cook’s hands matter more than anything else, and pushed and kicked that Pasty right out of the malt shoppe! Believe me, if you could do the job, The Colonel didn’t care what color you were, trust me on this. [21]

– Anonymous former KFC Employee, interview for ABC report, 2002

…It is worthy of note just how fortunate - or smart - The Colonel’s company was to avoid unintentionally oversaturating the market with their product. The heads of the business were also smart enough to not expand too quickly and overwhelm their business models. Instead of blind ambition influencing its growth, the company went at just the right pace, naturally branching out to organically stay in step with the ways of supply and demand…

– Josh Ozersky’s Colonel Sanders and the American Dream, University of Texas Press, 2012

Rookie workers would start off complaining about The Colonel’s strict policy of forbidding us waitresses from collecting tips. I worked as a waitress at the Sanders Court and Café during the 1940s, so I knew where they were coming from, but The Colonel wouldn’t risk customers getting the wrong idea from flirtatious youngsters and causing any ruckus in any of his franchise’s locations. Instead, from the get-go, The Colonel paid his customers what he would later call “a livable wage” that took average tip amounts into account. In some places, the Colonel was a really smart fellow. Even ahead of his time, in fact!

– Anonymous former KFC Employee, interview for CBS report, 1975

The summer of 1953 was when I really started selling my franchise beyond Kentucky’s borders in full force. I knew we were making enough money and our financial future was looking as bright as Montana at noon. But I just loved travelling those roads and seeing so many great and interesting people! That summer, I convinced an old friend of mine, Jo Clemmons from Oak Ridge, TN, to open up the first KFC franchise in Tennessee [22]. Then, on my first try at selling my chicken in northern Illinois, much farther north of Little Egypt and Alton, I was driving north along the eastern side of the state toward Tuscola in September of 1953, when I witnessed a terrible car wreck happen, with one car almost hitting mine in the melee. One driver, a young man, ended up pinned under what was left of this panel truck of sorts; without thinking I hurried over and held out my cane. He grabbed it, and another man and I pulled him out of the wreckage [23].

– Colonel Sanders’ Life As I Have Known It Has Been Finger-Lickin’ Good, Creation House publishing, 1974

I’ve never read the Colonel’s autobiography, so I don’t know if the Colonel ever visited Illinois in the early years of KFC, but I understand he was passionate about infrastructure. I agree with that. My father almost died in a car accident once when I was little. He told me it was a miracle that he survived it. By the Grace of God, right before he lost consciousness, some man with a smooth tree branch pulled him out of the wreckage and saved his life. The point is that the accident wouldn’t have even happened if the roads were safer, and they have gotten worse across the country in the decades since then. …My father also developed a temper from the pain of his injuries, but at the end of the day he was still a good man. I saw him struggle with the pain, and struggle to pay for medication and treatment for his wounds causing him pain. Seeing someone you care about go through that is absolutely heartbreaking. It shouldn’t happen to anyone, and it should not happen anymore, but it still does, despite the progresses made in healthcare of the years...

– Jim Edgar, speech on the costs of highways and healthcare, 11/3/2009


…“Republicans have repeatedly accused half of the state House and Senate – the Democratic halves – of corruption, but tonight the voters proved that they were not falling for any of it. Tonight showed how smart the voters of Kentucky are, and they have overall rejected the malarky. Now, the Party of Jackson is going to hold Republicans accountable, and make sure that corruption, big business favoritism, and partisan bias are kept out of Frankfort,” claims Democratic Caucus aide and legislative assistant John B. Breckinridge…

The Louisville Times, 11/3/1953

…But the big news story of today is the one about last night’s School Funding Referendum. Across our Commonwealth, the people voted on how to pay for schoolin’, and a slim majority of Kentuckians who went to the polls voted to repeal and replace our current per capita distribution process for school funds and permitted the General Assembly, by a general law, to prescribe the manner of distribution of the Common School Fund. This referendum was opposed by segregationist groups on the claim that the General Assembly will unfairly distribute funds to Black schools. …The referendum passed by a very narrow margin, with the latest report suggesting a margin of roughly 2%...

– Thomas T. Hall, WMOR 1330AM radio broadcast, 11/4/1953

By the start of 1954, my chicken was becoming incredibly popular in the state. Claudia and the children were instrumental in getting the word out by word of mouth within Kentucky, while Harman began to spend more and more time helping me come up with interesting eye-catching ideas – advertising details, and what have you. Business was so successful that by the end of 1953, people were actually traveling to me, requesting to become my next franchisee. I was truly surprised the first time it happened and didn’t expect it to be the new phase of KFC. It meant that now any travelling was more often spent inspecting franchisees than finding new ones, turning the focus from quantity to quality. But, like a farmer getting a better tractor, I didn’t mind this change; it just made the trips more leisurely, and so, more enjoyable for me and Claudia!

– Colonel Sanders’ Life As I Have Known It Has Been Finger-Lickin’ Good, Creation House publishing, 1974

Harley graduated from college with a law degree and a BA in business administration in June 1954. After lengthy discussions with my husband [John Foster Ruggles Jr.], I told the family I wanted to take some night classes in business. I thought it could prove beneficial to both my father’s chicken business and to John’s sign-making business. Father agreed, as did my husband after some convincing. As one Sanders left the world of education, another entered.

– Mildred Sanders Ruggles’ My Father, The Colonel: A Life of Love, Politics, and KFC, StarGroup International, 2000


[pic: ]

– American mandolinist and singer-songwriter Bill Monroe, often called "The Father of Bluegrass" for creating the bluegrass music genre in the mid-to-late 1940s, meets with Colonel Sanders, circa July 1954; Monroe was stopping by a KFC outlet near Hebron, KY, on his way to a venue in Frankfort, KY, just as Sanders was dropping by the outlet; Sanders was a fan of Monroe, and greatly enjoyed the unexpected and rather serendipitous visit

When I first met Colonel Sanders, I was 22 years ago. It was August, 1954, and I had been working at the Clauses’ Hobby House Restaurant in Fort Wayne since was 15 – except for my aforementioned army years, that is. Counting from my discharge, I had been at the Hobby House for just over a year, and was working as its head chef, when The Colonel first stopped by. I remember thinking how odd he looked in his nearly all-white outfit, and for some reason I didn’t recognize him until he said his name. He was odd-looking, but charming, and gave a sales pitch that really won over the Clauses. ...Soon I started working with The Colonel more directly on matters of the kitchen …But of course, I was only 25 then; I had no idea that he was going to be such a huge part of my life. …Of course it wasn’t all flowers and sunshine. When I first started making the chicken, he cussed me up big-time for dumping the chicken out of the fryer. He wanted them ladled out, because that minimizes damage to the crust. But despite his mean temper, I recognized that he had the wisdom and skills of a lifetime in the restaurant business; wisdom and skills that he could tell me and teach me; wisdom and skills that I could use for my own dream of having my own restaurant someday [24]. I just didn't realize at the time how greatly The Colonel and his chicken would end up being a part of that journey...

– Dave Thomas’ Under the Colonel’s Wing, Mosaic Publishing, 1982


…The Democratic victor, Alben W. Barkley, who is “77 years young,” as he repeatedly puts it, previously served as Vice President of the United States from 1949 to 1953. Before then, he served in the US Senate from 1927 to 1949 and in the US House of Representatives from 1913 to 1927. …The Republican loser of the election was 53-year-old incumbent US Senator John Sherman Cooper, who had held the seat since November 1952, after winning a special election to finish the term won by Virgil Chapman, a Democrat, in 1948; Chapman passed away in office in 1951, prompting said special election. …Cooper’s loss – by a margin of roughly 9% – demonstrates a major problem that the Kentucky GOP has been facing for years now. Frankly, they repeated fail to nominate the right kind of candidate…

The Louisville Times, 11/2/1954

…The 1954 US congressional elections were held two years after Eisenhower’s election to the Presidency. …Republicans lost gubernatorial seats and seats in both chambers of congress, largely as a result of public backlash to McCarthyism and several relevant controversies, most notably McCarthy’s hearings on the US Army, and the machinations that led to the suicide of incumbent US Senator Lester C. Hunt (D-WY). …In the House, Republicans lost 18 seats, costing them majority control. Furthermore, Republicans lost only 2 Senate seats, but as they were holding the Senate by 1 seat, the results cost them control of that chamber as well. …Republicans lost 8 governor seats...


…Travelling to all of these new a different places in that state allowed my father to really reinvent himself. With each new location, with each new person he met, he tweaked his sales pitched and watched his swear-filled mouth. He was able to separate himself from his reputation of swearing like a sailor. I remember how he’d often say how the priest in Corbin refused to eat at his place until he quit cussing, and as a result the priest had never tried KFC. And he apparently wouldn’t until after “The Swearer” became “The Colonel”…

– Mildred Sanders Ruggles’ My Father, The Colonel: A Life of Love, Politics, and KFC, StarGroup International, 2000

My stepdad seemed to really have his pulse on image and marketing and all that. Inside the state, the chicken was called “Colonel’s Chicken,” and had become incredibly popular in the state by the start of 1955, if I remember correctly. Outside the state, though, people called it “Kentucky Fried Chicken,” which I guess what an intriguing title to non-Kentuckians. It sounds like a brilliant marketing strategy, but it was actually accidental, as someone who worked for my stepdad, I forget who, called it K.F.C. when it started out in Utah, and it just kind of spread out from there to the rest of the states I guess, you know? Anyway, I do remember that the Colonel once commented about how unbelievably successful the whole thing was, and actually sort of feared that the whole thing could be growing out of hand – by 1955, I think he had, oh what was it, about two or three hundred franchisees? And as his chicken’s popularity spread across the nation, which he really, honestly, he really wasn’t expecting that, I really think it became a tiny bit overwhelming for the man. Really.

– Elvis Ray Price, Colonel Sanders’ stepson, in a rare interview, 1994

“The easy way is efficacious and speedy, the hard way arduous and long. But, as the clock ticks, the easy way becomes harder and the hard way becomes easier. And as the calendar records the years, it becomes increasingly evident that the easy way rests hazardously upon shifting sands, whereas the hard way builds solidly a foundation of confidence that cannot be swept away.”

– Colonel Sanders, c. 1954 [25]

In the years after World War 2, Kentucky experienced economic peaks and valleys. Under President Eisenhower, federal construction of the Interstate Highway System helped connect even the most remote areas of Kentucky to one another, improving communicate and trade throughout the state.

Lawrence W. Wetherby served as governor during the first half of the decade, from December 1950 to December 1955. A moderate Democrat, he was considered pragmatic, solid, and effective, though unspectacular. As lieutenant governor under Earle Clements, he had been out of the limelight. After Clements was elected as a US Senator in 1950, Wetherby succeeded to the office; he was elected to his own gubernatorial term in 1951. He emphasized themes of road improvements, and increasing tourism and other economic development. Wetherby was one of the few Southern governors to implement desegregation in public schools after the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), which ruled that segregated schools were unconstitutional. Furthermore, Wetherby supported agriculture workers at a time of change for the state agricultural scene. Though still important to the state’s economy, the agriculture sector was being supplanted in many areas by industry, which stimulated urbanization (in fact, by the end of the 1960s, Kentucky had more urban than rural residents). To ease the transition for mostly-rural to mostly-urban, Wetherby promoted pro-farmer legislation at the start of the early 1955 state congressional session. The bill was later credited in helping workers such as farmhands for the state's tobacco farmers avoid financial hardships later on down the road. Although decreasing in overall importance, tobacco production remained an important part of the state economy for the next several decades, bolstered by a New Deal legacy that gives financial advantages to holders of tobacco allotments.

At the start of the 1950s, 13% of Kentuckians migrated out of state largely for economic reasons. Dwight Yoakam's song "Readin', Rightin', Route 23" is named after a local expression describing the route that rural Kentuckians took to find work beyond the coal mines. (U.S. Route 23 runs north from Kentucky through Columbus and Toledo, Ohio and to the automotive centers of Michigan.) Rather than the standard line that their elementary schools taught "the three Rs" of "Readin', 'Ritin', and 'Rithmetic", Kentucky residents used to say that the three Rs they learned were "Readin', 'Ritin', and Route 23 North. Governor Wetherby fought against this growing trend during his term by strongly supporting “home-grown” enterprises to lower unemployment, and promoting multiple Kentucky-based businesses, including Kentucky Fried Chicken… [26]

– Lynda Downard’s Kentucky In The 20th Century: A History, Borders Books, 2020


Covington, KY From north to south, construction workers are pouring out concrete and asphalt to create I-75, the latest road development project transforming the face of Kentucky and improving it's connections to the road systems of the rest of the country. The massive transportation infrastructure is reportedly adding thousands of jobs at a time when the state truly needs them. New buildings are also being established ahead of the highway’s completion, with half-built lots dotting the sides of the mega-road’s path – gas stations, appliance stores, motels, and of course, restaurants and diners galore flank the future transportation "lifeline," as its planners call I-75. …“this new road can help bring Kentuckians and Americans closer together and expand their consumer options” says a franchisee for the state-wide famous Colonel’s Fried Chicken. His restaurant in Williamstown will be serving the famous “pressure-fried” chicken alongside its own menu items to hungry customers stopping on by on their way into Kentucky, out of Kentucky, or even just plain through Kentucky. …“It seems this new highway will bring good fortune to all!”

The Courier-Journal, Kentucky newspaper, 1/9/1955

In early 1955, about a week or two after the start of the final session of state congress, I joined Wetherby for some political social event, not as a caterer this time, but as a welcomed guest. I found myself captivated by the patriotic rhetoric spouted out there. When he finally had the time to do so, when everything was winding down and the Governor had had some Champaign or what-have-you, Wetherby said to me, “I’ve really got to hand it to you, Harland – I mean, ‘Colonel.’ You went from having one local institution to handling a national enterprise!”

“Yeah, but now that I’m getting all this attention, people keep asking me to do things for them. I’ve been invited to several business conventions and discussion groups for this year alone!”

“Well if you ever need a plus-1, just give me a call.”

“Aw, what are you talking about? You’re way too busy being Governor!”


At this, I turned my head to face him directly, “What do ya mean, Lawrence?”

He quickly looked around and lowered his voice to confess, “Do you know how easy this job is? In the first 90 days, you fix the budget and push for the programs and ideas you campaigned on, then the state congress takes a summer break. You only do voluntary legislation in the fall, and the congress is off to focus on the midterm elections during your second year. Then, in your third of only four years in office, you repeat the intense 90-day period of budget-balancing and program-pushing before summer break, and after the final fall session, you’re basically a lame duck!” [27]

I was shocked by this revelation, “Balancing the budget every two years for um, uh…”

“Four years,” Lawrence returned his voice to normal.

“…and that’s it? That’s all you have to do?”

“Well, personally, you and I know I’ve done a lot more for this state than just that, but constitutionally speaking…yes! That’s it! Really, to tell you the truth, Colonel, it’s a very easy job.”


“I’m telling you, anybody could serve as governor, Colonel Sanders. Anybody.”

– Colonel Sanders’ Life As I Have Known It Has Been Finger-Lickin’ Good, Creation House publishing, 1974

[1] Source of boring tax specifics:
[2] As it was described and can be found here: (August 28, 1950 entry)
[3] Source: one of the charts found in the above link (so, I really should have just written "Ibid." here...huh...)
[4] IOTL, Sanders received a Social Security check on $105 dollars in 1955 (according to several sources); in 1950, that amount would be valued at US$92.81, according to this site: Also, the 2018 value of $105 in 1955 and $92.81 in 1950 are $969.48 and $969.49, respectively (same site)
[5] Their friendship is often mentioned, albeit just in passing, whenever I look up his 1950 re-commissioning
[6] Mentioned here:
[7] She was a sculptor, according to this: The Colonel’s sentiment towards it is mention in her Associated Press obituary: [imgur: c1Hty3C.png ]
[8] Mentioned on wiki’s Kentucky (history) article; seems legit
[9] Rumored # of rejections mention here: and on other sites as well
[10] Briefly mentioned in list on the KFC website
[11] Who? This guy!:
[12] Mentioned (and paraphrased from) here: (page 7 when printed out)
[13] These sentences are taken verbatim from here:
[14] Found here: And additional information can be found in this OTL article here:
[15] Source:
[16] Quote is from here: (page 18 when printed out)
[17] Pulled from here:
[18] Taken from sourced/cited sentence found here:
[19] Found in this source here:
[20] A slightly edited OTL article!
[21] Based on Johnny D. Miller’s comment found here:, along with the comments of family members such as this one: and especially this one:
[22] Source: (page 20 when printed out)
[23] Some details concerning Jim Edgar’s father’s death found on a PDF found when googling “Jim Edgar 1953” (edgar_jim_4fnl_vol i.pdf (I don’t know how to link it, sorry…))
[24] Thomas commenting on Sanders can be found throughout this: [ youtube: f7u8HjdvUpk ]
[25] This is an OTL Colonel Sanders quote, which was pulled from here:
[26] Italicized parts were pulled from here:–1980
[27] Clements' exact comments are noted here:
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Colonel Sanders Socialist Fried Chicken
(can go both ways! Lol)

The chicken itself is a shocking unique strength that crosses party lines. I can think of Senator Heinz, but he didn’t win on ketchup. Like nobody then is going to stop eating KFC and it will totally have “chicken this good, man can’t be bad even if he is a damn…” play. Heh he might get away with using KFC advertising as indirect ads for him, back then and only a state race after all.
Chapter 2: May 1955 – September 1955
Chapter 2: May 1955 – September 1955

“Politics is the art of the possible.”

– Otto von Bismarck, 1867 interview

It was sometime in either the start or the middle of May, 1955. A man arrived at the Colonel’s franchise’s headquarters in Corbin; I saw him poking around the café and I asked him what we could do for him. His accent was local, “Hello, I’d like to speak with Colonel Sanders on some very important –”

“Do you have an appointment?”

“Yes, I –”

“Back here,” I ushered the man around back to my father’s office. Like his image, Father kept his “paperwork room” tidy despite its noticeable age and small size. The wallpaper kept peeling and the air was never as hot or cold as should have been. Cabinets and files lines the sides of the room, making it even smaller. Opposite Father’s desk hung the 1939 entry on Sanders’ Court and Café that Duncan Hines included in Adventures in Good Eating:
“A very good place to stop en route to Cumberland Falls and the Great Smokies. Continuous 24-hour service. Sizzling steaks, fried chicken, country ham, hot biscuits.”​

Father was reviewing some papers on his desk when the man and I entered the open doorway; he sat up and bluntly asked, “Hello, stranger, what’s your business?”

The man quickly answered while we entered the room, “Sir, I represent the state’s Republican Party leaders, and –”

“Hey Dad, you know your main franchiser in Colorado?” Millie quickly popped her head into the doorway, interrupting the stranger; she was holding the nearby phone in her hands.

“What about him?” Father inquired.

“He just bought 400 plastic buckets on a whim and wants to know what you think he should do with them.”

“Heh-heh, what?! Oh, boy, that fella. Ha… oh, uh, I don’t know, was it a local bucket store or something?”


Father, failing to come up with an idea he thought would be sensible, dismissively said, “Well, uh, oh, I don’t know, maybe he could sell my chicken in them as a tie-in – or whatever it’s called – to the bucket store or something [1]! We’ll see how well it goes to see if it should be done again.”

“The chicken, huh? That could work. Sir, did you hear him?” Millie spoke back into the receiver as she went around the corner.

“Sir, we are wondering if you would be interested in –”

“Harley!” Claudia entered the room next, “someone spilled a drink and it's gone everywhere. Where do we keep the extra towels?”

A few more interruptions from the day-to-day business invaded the area until finally the man, growing agitated at starting his thought again and again, reached his limit. Raising his voice, the man quickly blurted out as politely as he could, “Colonel Sanders, we’d like you to run for Governor!”

Everyone – Father, Claudia, Millie, and I – stopped talking to look at the stranger.

Not sure what to say next, the man added “Please.”

Father sat up in his chair. He was noticeably surprised but also genuinely curious. He inquired if it was some joke, but the look of seriousness on the man’s face answered that question. At a loss for words, Father chuckled, “Why?”

The man presented the case. “For three very good reasons, sir. Number one: the chaos brewing in the Democratic race could be the Republican’s chance to finally win back the governorship. Secondly, your strong showing in your Republican primary bid four years ago shows that support for your candidacy can be built up instead of made from scratch. And on the final note, above all, your name recognition within the state. Every Kentuckian knows your name, and can see you as a traditional well-meaning man whom wants what's best for everyone. That’s the image you have, and that’s the perfect image for a successful Republican campaign. An honest businessman with heart, compassion, vision and – ”

“Hold on, sonny,” Father cut the brownnosing session to mull over his points a bit before replying, “Sir, my life has been in chicken. As you can see by how busy I am here, I have my hands full already.” I’m not sure why he stopped himself from saying the franchise was mainly for retirement funds. It's most likely that, given the uniqueness of the circumstance, my intrigued father just wanted to see if there was anything more to this strange Republican man’s even stranger pitch.

The man with the offer switched tactics. “The governor’s seat is a wonderful way to be of bigger help to this state. Everyone loves your chicken. I love your chicken, but regardless, the GOP state leaders believe it to be every Kentuckian’s duty to do the best thing when they can.”

“Hmm, I still don’t know, stranger,” Father replied.

“At least think about it, Colonel, sir,” The man took out a card and left it on the desk. “We would really like you to say yes to this wonderful opportunity. But get back to us soon. Very soon, in fact; the filing deadline is the first of July [2].”

Fathered quickly returned his gaze to the man “Wait, Why so soon?”

“It gives the candidates time to run for their respective primaries on August 9 [2].”

“A primary run? You mean I’d be running two times for the one job?” Father held up his two fingers, then one, to illustrate his point.

The man quickly went on the defense with the line, “You’re a shoo-in, Colonel! The only other person in the race is a small-time businessman with no name recognition.”

“What’s his name?” Father asked.

“Um, Ed…Edwin Denney [3], I believe” the man eventually answered.

Father thought for a moment more, “I know lots of businessmen, but I’ve never heard of him.”

“My point exactly. Colonel, we need you, your state needs you. Please think it over, and call us when you have, sir. Thank you for your time,” he then made his cordial goodbyes and left for the door. His last words on that day were, “Kentucky needs you, Colonel. Will you answer the call?”

It was a corny conclusion, but it still struck Father, who fiddled with the card as he sat back down in his office chair, the man’s words still swimming through his mind. His taste for politics was rekindled; I could detect the spark in his eyes. Finally he huffed, “there’s just one problem – what about my chicken? All of this, this empire, what would happen to it all if I ran for Governor? What would happen to it all if I won?!”

Millie took her turn to speak her mind, “Pop, many businessmen have become Governor before. And businessmen wouldn’t run if it meant having to give up everything, that’d be ridiculous. And personally, Pop, I think you would win. I mean,” walking over to the window, likely to take a peek at the giant sign out front, “your chicken has made you the most popular and beloved man in this state! They’d have to be crazy not to vote for you!”

Over the next several hours, between managing the restaurant, motel, employees, and franchise, all of us chimed in to voice support for the run. We all agreed that this was something that Father should go for.

Early the next day, at the breakfast table, Father finally asked Claudia, the visiting Millie, and I, “Now, suppose I did run and then win this here election. Who would take over as the head of this company? Harman has his own restaurant and wouldn’t want to move across the country. And the term is only for four years, so after the job is done, I’ll definitely want to return to running the company I started!”

Millie gave me a look, then visually gestured to me that I should step up to the plate, so I did. “I can run the business for you, Father!” I offered boldly.

“But Junior, you need to really know how to make the chicken. One does not simply walk into KFC.”

– Harland David “Harley” Sanders Jr., In the Thick of It: The Story of The Colonel and His Son, Sunrise Publishing, 1991


[ ]
– Sanders discussing business with family members, c. 1955

“I can run the business and more! I’ve made the chicken before, and when it comes to handling the ins and outs of the company, well, I do have a BS in business administration.”

“No offense, son, but the only business you’ve ever run was a lemonade stand! [4] And if I recall correctly, it didn’t do that well!”

“Failure never stopped you, Pop,” Millie rebutted.

Father let the sentiment sink in for a moment, “Heh, you’re right about that, Millie.” After a long pause, he drew out a long exhale and asked with all seriousness and expecting all sincerity, “Alright, son. If I win the governorship, the company’s yours – but only for four years. And only if I win. …But do y’all really think I could pull that off?”

Each one of us nodded in an unspoken agreement. When opportunity calls, you’ve just got to answer!

A warm smile stretched across our old man’s face. He stood up and walked over to the phone, the card pinned to the wall by a thumb tack. “This is The Colonel,” he ultimately said into the receiver, “Get the ring; I’m throwing my chef’s hat into it!”

– Harland David “Harley” Sanders Jr., In the Thick of It: The Story of The Colonel and His Son, Sunrise Publishing, 1991

…and here’s a news bulletin: Food Magnate Colonel Sanders Announces Bid For Governor! Well, how about that? Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that’s the latest out of the southern-central town of Corbin, where the famous Colonel Sanders has decided to try to move from the kitchen to the governor’s office, announcing his bid for the Republican nomination for Governor of Kentucky earlier today outside of the Sanders Court and Café restaurant and motel. Now, I don’t know about the rest of y’all, but since the Colonel is also a noted figure outside the state, this is certain to bring more national attention of this race. And even inside the state, since to be completely honest, folks, I didn’t even know we had an election this year! Heh. And now, back to the music!...

– Thomas T. Hall, WMOR 1330AM radio broadcast, 5/29/1955

For my campaign, I needed a base of operations, and the folks in the party found a place for it right in the middle of the drive between Corbin and London (home of the GOP’s state party headquarters). What we got was a rented-out office space that was small and stuffy but still bigger and more advantageous than my office in Corbin. On my first time walking into that place, I saw people running around like busy-body hens, too busy to even greet the very man they were trying to make governor. In a side room, rows of women were clacking away at typewriters in a cacophonous roar of metal bells and whistles. Already, posters were being printed: a sign reading “Sanders for Governor” covered most of the narrower wall of the main room. Underneath sat my new desk.

My campaign manager escorted me over to them all, and at one point noted, “Now remember, Colonel, if you’re going to mention KFC, then mention how it qualifies you for the governorship.”

Margaret walked over from her station and added, “Separating your own personal businesses from politics is essential to prove you’re in it for the people, Pop, not to promote yourself, because while you know that, the people don’t. Not yet, anyway.”

“I reckoned, I reckoned. Now we just have to tell the people why they should vote for me. Oh, and Margaret?”


“…Those are some nice posters. Keep it up!” It was nice to see her finally taking an interest in family activities.

She nodded before getting back to work. I think she smiled, too.

– Colonel Sanders’ Life As I Have Known It Has Been Finger-Lickin’ Good, Creation House publishing, 1974

Initially, John [Ruggles]’s Sign Company didn’t work for the campaign. The state Republicans already had a guy making posters and whatnot for them, but Pops convinced them to let John do some things here and there. It was a crucial moment for John’s company, as it exposed him to all the details necessary – the machinery and materials, the number of workers, the organization overall – to run a sign company big enough to run a statewide campaign. John very much enjoyed it, and thereafter sought to make the Ruggles Sign Company even bigger.

There was never any conflict-of-interest or what-have-you between KFC and the Ruggles Sign Company. Even still, strangely, an allegation of nepotism - of the state GOP hiring their preferred candidate's son-in-law for some marketing tasks - was one possible accusation that Chandler never made…

– Mildred Sanders Ruggles’ My Father, The Colonel: A Life of Love, Politics, and KFC, StarGroup International, 2000

Business Edwin R. Denney met with Father near the middle of June, but it was not exactly a social call. According to Father, who told me about it right afterward, Denney was bitter and stubborn about the political machine’s "malicious and underhanded" machinations, endorsing and throwing their money behind Father instead of staying out of the primary to make it a fair run. "Kentucky Republicans ought to have a choice in this affair - otherwise, how will we know they want you instead of me?" he apparently bellowed.

“He wasn't willing to just give up without some kind of fight, That’s why I like him; he’s willing to fight for what he thinks is right – just like me!” Father said.

"I don't know," I remember Claudia saying with uncertainty in her voice. "Do you think it's right to try and make him forfeit?"

"I don't know myself, dear," Father said to her, "But those folks tell me that they've been takin' internal poll after internal poll, and that those polls keep saying that he'll lose to me anyway if he saying in. And I told him just as much. After that, the ball was back in his court."

After about 40 minutes of them talking and arguing over the merits of the KYGOP's proposal, both and Denney and Father had lunch with the state Republican leaders. Eventually, Denney was convinced to drop out of the primary run to redirect party attention and materials to the general election. In exchange, Sanders agreed to back Denney strongly if he ran for Lieutenant Governor instead. Denney did just that, reportedly saying, “I’m going to run for something, dammit!” Denney couldn’t be removed from the primary ballots for governor, but he was added to the primary ballots for Lt. Governor at the last moment, much to the relief of the KYGOP and to the printers’ annoyance.

– Harland David “Harley” Sanders Jr., In the Thick of It: The Story of The Colonel and His Son, Sunrise Publishing, 1991

Kentucky State Party Gubernatorial Primaries, 8/6/1955:

For Governor:
Republican Primary Results (3.30% Total Population):
Colonel Sanders – 65,602 (67.42%)
Edwin R. Denney (withdrawn) – 16,181 (16.63%)
James L. Clay – 15,519 (15.95%)
Total votes cast: 97,304

Democratic Primary Results (17.16% Total Population):
Happy Chandler – 259,875 (51.40%)
Bert T. Combs – 241,754 (47.82%)
Jesse N. R. Cecil – 3,965 (0.78%)
Total votes cast: 505,594

– [2]

"I was happy for The Colonel, but I could not possibly openly support his candidacy despite the very public open dissensions between Chandler and I. It would eviscerate my standing in the Democratic party. Well, that is, that is how the situation started out, I mean. At the beginning of the race."

– Former Governor Lawrence Wetherby (D-KY) in CBS Interview, 1963

Making light of how long the former Governor had been involved in state politics, Chandler ran for his former job on the slogan “Be like your Pappy and vote for Happy.” Meanwhile, incumbent Governor Wetherby and former Governor Clements continued their somewhat complicated and deep-rooted feud with Chandler as the 1955 party primary arrived. The state Democratic Party's Clements-Wetherby faction’s candidate, an inexperienced state judge named Bert T. Combs, ran an inefficient campaign against the better-known and better-funded Chandler.

Not only that, but Chandler also assaulted the incumbent administration with a series of scandalous accusations, alleging corruption and financial misuse against Clements and Combs before switching to the next accusation against Wetherby before any of the three anti-Chandler men could sufficiently respond to the previous claim. I remember two of his many allegations concerned office furniture - he claimed that Clements had purchased a $20,000 rug for his office and that Wetherby had paneled his office with African mahogany. Chandler promised that, if elected, he would use "good, honest Kentucky wood" in his office and that all Kentuckians would be invited to the capitol to walk on the $20,000 rug. Clements responded by publicly releasing invoices that proved that no $20,000 rug had been purchased by Clements, and Wetherby's paneling had been purchased from and installed by a local contractor. Now one might think that the fact that Chandler's charges may have been inaccurate [8] would be enough to slow down his momentum. But like I said, before the truth of one scandal could catch up with him, Happy was one spinning another yarn. And the voters paid more attention to the claims than to the explanations. It seemed to be what they always did.

With all this in mind, when Combs lost by a considerable margin to Chandler, it was not exactly a surprise upset. They were a huge blow to the Wetherby administration, that's for sure, but more importantly, the results seemed to only boost even further the former MLB Commissioner’s ego and confidence in the November election results. “The general election is practically over. They should just give me back the keys to the governor’s mansion right now!” I remember Chandler saying soon afterward, laughing jovially and confidently.

I however, was much more cautious than my boss. “So we shouldn’t be worried at all about the Republican nominees?”

Chandler thought otherwise, exclaiming boisterously “The voters of Kentucky will always vote for the more experienced candidate. And Sanders and Denney have none! This is going to be a cakewalk!”

– Anonymous former aide to Happy Chandler, radio interview, 1971


– Poster promoting the Sanders/Denney ticket, 8/7/1955

I should have figured that it would happen. I saw the trucks and machines driving by from time to time. I saw them tearin’ up the earth to widen the roads. I just hadn’t put two and two together.

Right after winning the primary and nomination, Millie ran into the campaign headquarters with some startling news – it seemed that the development of the new highway, I-75, would completely bypass the Sanders Court and Café (a famous local institution!), by several miles!

“The cut could seriously hurt the flow of customers,” Millie bemoaned.

I thought for a minute before noting, “Y’know, if things were different, this would seriously worry me a whole lot more.” After all, this turn of event was coinciding with me turning 65, coinciding with me getting Social Security for the first time. I would probably be much more fearful of my financial future if I hadn’t already created my franchise. But instead, because of fate, or luck, or whatever intervention had occurred, I was blessed to not have such worries. Thanks to the franchise catching on like a fire in dry brush, I avoided woe in advance. I didn’t have to worry about losing customers or finances shrinking up like a river in a heat wave. We were fine!

But Millie was still mightily concerned about the restaurant, the one that had started it all, and the workers involved. "We might have to lay people off when revenue dry up. I don't want that to happen, Pop. Most of the waitresses at the Café are single mothers, for pity's sake."

"I know, I know," I agreed that the situation was less than fine for the spot's workers, and so I decided to give Millie a challenge of sorts. “That restaurant has a lot of history. So we won’t sell it. Instead, Mildred, I’m giving you a job.” It was a test to see if she really did have what it would take to run the business with her brother if I made it to the Governor’s seat. “I want you to scout out a spot right on this I-75 where we can open up a second restaurant, the Sanders’ Café II,” holding up two fingers for effect. “It’ll be the location for our new headquarters if the business continues to expand and customers do indeed stop pouring in on account of this here darn highway. If it works, those waitresses will get to keep working for us, just farther on down the road a-ways.”

Millie accepted the task, “I won’t let you down, Pop!”

– Colonel Sanders’ Life As I Have Known It Has Been Finger-Lickin’ Good, Creation House publishing, 1974

The Colonel reportedly had little difficulty adjusting from selling chicken to proprietors to selling himself to voters. His campaign platform tended to focus on the human side of local issues. Social issues were non-existent until Sanders started discussing food prices, agriculture, and infrastructure improvement. Government corruption was dropping in relevancy with each passing week, likely due to voters being exhausted from debating it during the 1951 election and the 1955 Democratic primaries.

Rather, for most of the campaign season, the primary focus was fiscal responsibility, and managing the efficiency of government programs in order to make them more productive without adding to their costs. At one event, Sanders explained “We have to go about not cutting corners so much as cutting the fat – the excess. The government should not be spending good money on something that the people can more than take care of themselves.” The Colonel also ran on his record as head of the Sanders Court and Café, especially his compassion for the working man, by pointing to his long-held practice of employing single mothers and assuring “a decent wage” in order to keep the Court’s waitresses from needing to ask for tips. “Tips encourage a humiliating form of living where you have to practically beg the customers for what you should be getting from your own boss.” Despite these moments of pro-worker rhetoric, the Colonel was invited to several business events, where the Colonel would apparently, “work his charm” as Claudia Sanders once put it. His charm explains why many wealthy Kentuckians financially divested in his campaign – the campaign's funds doubled between August 7 and September 7.

– Anne Meagher Northup’s Chicken and Politickin’: the Rise of Colonel Sanders and Rational Conservatism in the Republican Party, 2015

My first public speech was a lukewarm speech to a small crowd of supporters; it was meant to test my public speech skills. Of course, I’d done this sort of thing before, when I was a practicing lawyer, but this was different; here, it was my neck on the line, not my client's, and that puts things into a different perspective for me. Still, speechin’ is speechin’. It’s all about showmanship, always. I gave the speech and they clapped, and everything seemed fine. But then, when someone after the speech asked me a question, I did not know the answer to it, and I had to give the man the old run-around. It left a bad taste in my mouth – the taste of doubt. “What am I doing?” I remembering thinking to myself. “I don’t know how to be a politician. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks!”

But then again, I’d never been a millionaire before, and I seemed to be handling that pretty well!

I told my concerns to Junior. By then I was getting used to calling him “Harley.” After talking it over with me, he directed me to an obvious source of help – the library. Junior and Mildred went and picked up for me books upon books on the state’s economy, on local histories, and on statewide politics; they got archived newspapers showing what the problems were, too. It was helpful, sure, but it still wasn’t enough. I needed more – I needed to do what I always did – talk to people. So, I went back to the tried and true method of travelling around the state and casually striking up conversations. Instead of offering chicken, I offered an ear to listen to their woes. I listened to the coal miners in north-central Kentucky, to the farmers of the bluegrass plains, to the grease monkeys of the factories (though I can’t recall if they were called that back then), to the single mothers of the cities, and to the nuclear families of the surrounding newfound suburb lands. I even met with a group of people, plus some of their youngin’s, and listened to their claims that goblins from outer space had attacked their farmhouse (because a voter ignored is a voter not votin’ for you!) [5]. And of course I talked to businessmen, but of businesses big and small! I listen and I learned, and I showed that I did hear them, and that I was concerned. And I'm real sure the people could tell that my concerns were genuine.

– Colonel Sanders’ Life As I Have Known It Has Been Finger-Lickin’ Good, Creation House publishing, 1974


[ ]
– Sanders on the Campaign Trail, 8/30/1955

“Back in 1926, I was in a terrible car accident. I got out of the wreck with only a torn scalp, and my wife, uh, at the time patched it up [6], but many folks aren’t so lucky. We need to have better healthcare in our state – more funding for doctors, more doctoral programs at Kentucky’s colleges and Universities. More incentives for doctors to work here and medical students to come and learn their trade here. We also need better roads – safer highways and bridges – to keep painful accidents from ever happening in the first place!”

– Sanders, stump speech in Ashland, KY, 9/1/1955

SANDERS GAINING ATTENTION: Businessman’s “Listenin’ Tour” Picking Up Steam

The Advocate-Messenger, KY newspaper, 9/7/1955


[ ]
– Colonel Sanders discussing road safety with local servicemen, Paducah, KY, 9/8/1955

…I again reminded Happy that he was failing to win over liberal Democrats, and that the party was still bitterly divided from the mud-caked primary race! Repeatedly, he’d brush off the idea of a more active campaign. However, after about a month or so, his resistance was growing weaker. I think it was beginning to dawn on him he was not as formidable as initially believed. That the Democratic domination over the state, which had been experienced for the past several years, was not going to hold forever. I believe it was his wife who reminded him that he had lost races before. But the thing was, those unsuccessful bids for higher office in then recent-years had only hurt his ego - it had not killed it. If anything, the losses made him even more focused on - and more desperate to win - the November election.

On September 8, Chandler finally began giving formal speeches, largely at charity dinners and fundraisers for his political allies. He was not exactly reaching outside the base, but it was a start, at least. However, even with the more active campaigning, Chandler was greatly reluctant to stump on major issues instead of one generic platitude, because despite the early polling, he was pretty much still convinced that the people who backed him in the primary would be enough to win over the Republican vote in November…

– Anonymous former aide to Happy Chandler, radio interview, 1971


[ ]
– Chandler/Waterfield Campaign Button, c. 1955

Oh, we went all over that state. We visited all the major cities – Covington, Owensboro, Bowling Green, Paducah – and the small towns, too. Oh, you name it, we probably visited it. We even stopped over at Louisa on the Tug Fork part of the Bid Sandy River, the eastern border of the state and the site of the famous feud between the Kentucky McCoy and West Virginia Hatfield families, though if we met any McCoys that day, they kept the last name to themselves. I was there when he made that speech in Nicholasville, at the same place where he had managed a Standard Oil service station during the ’20s [7]. My, that was a big crowd. I remember, Harland actually won some big-time local union’s endorsement after that trip!

– Claudia Price Sanders, TNB (Trinity National Broadcasting) interview, 1979

Chandler began to slowly take the general election more seriously as the days and weeks went by. By September 9, he had only visited 6 cities. Sanders, meanwhile, had dropped by over 50 communities in less than 40 days; this statistic finally made Chandler begin to legitimately worry.

Another moment that made him realize that running an 1890s-style "front porch campaign" might not work this time around came on September 10. On that day, the Commonwealth Journal, a small newspaper near the state’s center, reported that when one Kentuckian in Pulaski, County asked a local Chandler supporter “If Chandler wants this job, why isn’t he campaignin’ around like this Sanders fella is?” the Chandler backer failed to answer.

Ultimately, Chandler decided to be more active a campaigner the only way he knew how - by reusing the tactics of the primary race and going negative with a mudslinging attack campaign. However, as The Colonel had already begun the process of divesting interests in KFC to avoid conflict with this political aspiration, Chandler decided to try to attack The Colonel from a much different angle.

– journalist John Ed Pearce’s Divide and Dissent: Kentucky Politics 1930-1959, A University Press of Kentucky, 1987


…“Education is monumentally vital when it comes to running a whole state.” The former Senator continued, “Records show that Mister Sanders never completed the seventh grade. I believe it is dangerous and irresponsible to put the responsibilities of the Governor’s office into the hands of a man with merely a sixth-grade education.”

The Courier-Journal, KY newspaper, 9/9/1955

"I met my husband at Chandler’s 1935 inauguration [9], so of course, I had with a fair amount of respect for him. But I did not appreciate his personal attacks, and neither did my father…"

– Mildred Sanders Ruggles’ My Father, The Colonel: A Life of Love, Politics, and KFC, StarGroup International, 2000

“Now it is true that I left school during the seventh grade, because I couldn’t understand why letters of the alphabet were being used in math class. But you know what? Academia isn’t everything. Politicians are often highly educated, and yet they are often terrible at their jobs, so maybe someone who’s not confined to bein’ book-smart is who the people of Kentucky really need. Besides that, these remarks were not so much an insult to me as it is an insult to everyone who’s never graduated from high school – including those who dropped out to go fight for this country in Europe and the Pacific. But trying to insult me, he is insulting a great swath of Kentuckians who had to put taking care of their families by going to work a job ahead of learnin’ algebra.”

– Colonel Sanders, in a rebuttal of Happy Chandler’s comments the day prior, 9/10/1955

“Doesn’t anyone else think it’s silly? An old man going around lying about him being a Colonel? It’s ridiculous. He’s not a Colonel; he didn’t even serve in the Army apart from hauling a few donkeys onto a boat for a few weeks when he was 16. That kind of service is pathetic!”

– Happy Chandler at a formal dinner at the exclusive Pendennis Club in Louisville, KY, 9/12/1955

“Every job in the army is important. You don’t belittle the people who perform the less glamourous jobs. That is uncalled for, Hap, it's shameful.”

– Colonel Sanders, in a rebuttal of Happy Chandler’s comments the day prior, 9/13/1955


...we believe that Mr. Chandler's disrespectful attitude toward certain occupations found within the United States armed forces make him unworthy of both the governorship and of other endorsement for the governorship," the press secretary remarked, "Not all military service positions are glamorous, but every single one of them plays a part in keeping America safe and secure..."

The Jeffersonian, KY newspaper, 9/14/1955

After nearly five weeks of scouring along the southern half of Kentucky I-75, calling people and learning the property values, taking into account every variable I could think of, I finally found the perfect spot. Florence, near of the Ohio border, while being fairly far from Corbin, lied close to the Ohio river, was a short drive away from Cincinnati, and was sure to be a site of growth as the years passed. Father approved of the spot, and beamed with pride. His support made me know that I could do anything if I just worked at it right.

– Mildred Sanders Ruggles’ My Father, The Colonel: A Life of Love, Politics, and KFC, StarGroup International, 2000

“Senator Chandler, since you’ve promised to not raise taxes to balance the budget, do you plan on cutting any government programs, if elected?”

“That’s 'when' elected, and I think that the statewide programs are very helpful, like, uh, for instance, um, the Youth Authority program and others. Excuse me.”

“That’s not an answer.”

“Well it’s what you’re getting. Excuse me…”

– The “not an answer” Chandler Gaffe, local press recording, 9/15/1955

“I did not know he could muddy up answering the press so badly. If Chandler went to rob a bank he’d hold onto his money sack and toss the teller his gun.”

– Colonel Sanders, 9/15/1955, multiple sources


Louisville, KY – This year’s upstart political newcomer, famous “fast food” businessman Colonel Sanders (R.) is dead-even in polls against former Senator Happy Chandler (D.). The latest results contrast sharply with polling taken earlier in the year, which repeatedly showed Chandler in the lead and Sanders losing to him by as much as 20 percentage points. Since then, Sanders has gradually won over the support of multiple organizations, in light many of Chandler’s evasive comments in recent weeks. The polling results also follow several missteps from the Chandler campaign. ...While the G.O.P. is united behind Sanders, members of the Wetherby-Clements faction of the state Democrat party are refusing to back Happy after a bitter Democratic primary in August. Chandler, in turn, is "purposely doing very little" to win over full party support "out of spite," according to an anonymous members of his campaign…

The Courier-Journal, 9/16/1955


Corbin, KY - In another attack on political opponent Col. Sander’s character, Chandler claims his opponent was once thrown out of court when practicing law after “a violent confrontation with his own client in front of the local judge” [10]...

The Kentucky Standard, 9/17/1955

“Now folks, I admit my passion can get out of hand at times. As a lawyer, I once used my fists instead of my words to give an ornery client of mine a well-deserved wallop. But that just proves that I’m a fighter who never backs down from a fight. Not then, not now, not ever. As Governor, I will fight for all of you. I will fight for your rights, to have them be protected and heard. I will fight for lower taxes. I will fight for road repair and for better hospitals and for better schools. I will fight for the things that matter most, even if it means kickin’ and screamin’ and bitin’ and beatin’ all the fat cats in Frankfort!"

– Colonel Sanders, 9/18/1955

CHICKEN AND POLITICKIN’: KFC Founder Leading Ex-Senator in Gov. Race

Frankfort, KT – Kentucky’s political derby this year is one for the ages: a chicken-selling underdog may just defeat an experienced DC insider. Coming after weeks of personal attacks from ex-Senator A. B. "Happy" Chandler that Col. Harland Sanders has successfully deflected, the latest polls make it seem that Chandler’s criticism of the Republican candidates’ intelligence and alleged temper are being seen as attacks on the undereducated and discontent people of Kentucky. These voters are moving en masse to Sanders’ column, and may prove pivotal in the elections’ outcome, provided they can be mobilized well enough for Election Day. If the Colonel is victorious, it would give high hopes to the Republicans as the 1956 election races approach.

The Washington Post, 9/19/1955

“Why even campaign, Colonel? There’s no way we can’t win!” [11]

– Edwin R. Denney, 9/19/1955, upon seeing the latest polls

"In September, another story came out concerning Sanders’ wild early years, this one about his apprehension to two rival bootleggers who were shooting up his neighborhood. Basically, Sanders was awoken in the middle of the night by them firing at each other, and Sanders bolted out of his home in his underwear and held both gunslingers at gunpoint until the police arrived [12]. The image of Sanders being as tough as nails when it came to crime and protecting those he cared about really excited voters that cared more about image than policy."

– Kent Prestwich, a KFC Executive Vice President from Utah [13], ABC interview, 1963

“Does he do everything by the gun?!” Chandler proclaimed, “He’s making a mockery of the office I once held…and will hold again.” Happy was fuming. He was becoming very desperate in his efforts to find something to attack Sanders on to bring him down. A second story “arose,” let’s say, about a week later, describing how the Colonel, back when he worked as an unlicensed midwife, once forced a drunk doctor, possibly at gunpoint, through stormy rain to help deliver a difficult pregnancy [14]. Instead of the story depicting him as a brute, it instead seemed to be cast him as a responsible and moral citizen; it backfired even worse, though, as the story helped Sanders win over female voters and the state’s medical community, causing the Colonel to boast “they can’t assassinate my character!”

Chandler began demanding his more intellectual goons to dig into any old records and files they could think of to see if there was any dirt on him “with enough weight to bring him down.” Happy personally perused through old papers – everything they could find on Sanders – and scanning over them, muttering a swear under his breath from time to time, until finally he stopped at some piece of peculiar parchment. Happy, widening his eyes as an idea grew in his mind, shouted “Wait… hey!” He called me over and said, “get my lawyers, I want to run something by them.”

– Anonymous former aide to Happy Chandler, radio interview, 1971


Louisville, KY – Outside of his political headquarters, former Governor Albert “Happy” Chandler today made a serious accusation against his political opponent. According to Chandler, Col. Harland Sanders of Corbin is not constitutionally eligible for the Governorship. …The part of the oath of office for the position of Governor of Kentucky, written as part of the current 1891 state constitution, involved in this accusation is the following passage: “I do further solemnly swear that since the adoption of the present Constitution, I, being a citizen of this state, have not fought a duel with deadly weapons within this state, nor out of it, nor have I sent or accepted a challenge to fight a duel with deadly weapons, nor have I acted as second in carrying a challenge, nor aided or assisted any person thus offending, so help me God.” Chandler claims that in 1931, Sanders shot in the shoulder and wounded a man name Matt Stewart in a confrontation that the Chandler campaign is calling a duel. If Chandler's claim is true, and that this armed conflict really was a duel, this would disqualify Col. Sanders for the office of Governor. Already, a member of the Colonel’s campaign has come to the Colonel’s defense, saying the accusation refers to a “self-defense incident” and is being “atrociously distorted in a blatant act of mud-slinging meant to disrupt the state's entire voting process”...

The Washington Post, 9/21/1955

…Also in the news, The state Democratic party leaders are claiming that several pro-Sanders broadcasting stations are, quote-unquote, "excessively" running advertisements for the Colonel's Kentucky Fried Chicken, which they believe violates the Federal Communication Commission's equal-time rules, a part of the federal agency's "Fairness Doctrine" policy introduced in 1949. A spokesman for KFC claims that KFC is working independently of the Colonel's aspirations for governor, and that it is the local stations that determine, quote, "the exact frequency of advertising," unquote. Nevertheless, the Democratic party spokesman has just announced that the party will go to court to hand them a judicial injunction if the stations continue to air KFC commercials. We will have more on this story as it develops...

– WKCT 930 AM Bowling Green, KT, radio broadcast, 12/2/1955


London, KY – An incident outside of Republican headquarters occurred today, in which a yet-unidentified man, allegedly known to be in Chandler’s inner circle, reportedly heckled Republican candidate Col. Sanders. The man allegedly egged on Sanders by calling him, among other things, a “deceitful bum.” Sanders reportedly had to be held back in order to keep the confrontation from becoming physical, with the Republican candidate shouting back to Chandler’s associate several unprintable slurs and the vow “we’ll see you all in court! I will not stand for this fowl play!”

– Follow-up article, The Washington Post, 9/23/1955

[1] In OTL, the idea for buckets of KFC actually came about in 1957, when a KFC franchisee in Colorado purchased 500 buckets from a travelling bucket salesman! (at least, according to source 23 on The History of KFC’s wiki page:
[2] Source:
[3] Who? This guy: /
[4] They were around as early as 1879!:
[5] I’m talking about this:–Hopkinsville_encounter
[6] OTL, as described here:
[7] Mentioned here: (page 12 when printed out).
[8] These italicized parts were pulled from this source here: And can apparently be found on pages 61 and 62 of this book: Pearce, John Ed (1987). Divide and Dissent: Kentucky Politics 1930–1963. Lexington, Kentucky: The University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0-8131-1613-9.
[9] Noted here:
[10] This really happened!: sanders arkansas judge&f=false (page 12)
[11] Denney’s high level of confidence in the race is suggested here:"Edwin+R.+Denney"+1955&ei=PfbnSICINp7ItAOS18DtBg&sig=ACfU3U37Tq4dV0UxHFupjXmPFBJB4DJpCw#v=onepage&q="Edwin R. Denney" 1955&f=false
[12] OTL, as depicted in here: (pages 13-14 when printed out)
[13] This guy:
[14] OTL thing, mentioned here:
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Chapter 3: October 1955 – December 1955
Chapter 3: October 1955 – December 1955

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”

– The Bible, James 1:22

JOHN CAMERON SWAYZE: Today, the highest court in the state of Kentucky today hears the case between candidates for governor Happy Chandler and Colonel Sanders. The race for governor detoured into the courts as former Governor Chandler claims his opponent, Republican businessman Colonel Sanders, is ineligible to serve. The accusation has caused a ruckus across the state as the election date nears. We take you now to our correspondent in front of the Kentucky Court of Appeals building in Frankfort.

CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, John. The state’s Court of Appeals [1] will listen to both sides of the story, so to speak, in a special session called to settle the matter before the election occurs. Happy Chandler is making the case that Colonel fought a duel with a man named Matt Stewart roughly 20 years ago. And because fighting a duel disqualifies one from serving as governor here in Kentucky, Chandler is calling for Sanders must be disqualified and removed from the ballot. Chandler’s representatives as repeatedly stated that Sanders and Stewart knew each other and that the encounter was a planned confrontation, while the Sanders campaign have argued otherwise.

JOHN CAMERON SWAYZE: Well either way the court rules, this will have an effect on the election, isn’t that right?

CORRESPONDENT: Oh yes, and we are waiting to see how this court case unfolds…

– NBC news broadcast, 10/1/1955

The seventh of May of the year of 1931 [2] was the day of the shooting incident in question. On this day, the accused, Mister Sanders of Shell Oil, and a one Mister Matthew Stewart of Standard Oil, confronted each other in the region of Corbin known as “Hell’s Half-Acre.” The two men knew each other; the two men talked to each other; the two became angry at each other; and the two men fired weapons at each other. And a duel, my fellow Kentuckians, is defined by Merriam-Webster, as, and I quote, “a combat between two persons; a conflict between antagonistic persons; or a hard-fought contest between two opponents,” unquote. Thus, in compliance with the state constitution, Mister Sanders is an illegal candidate for Governor. As such, we beseech the court to uphold this state’s institutions with a firm upholding of the law. Sanders must be removed from the ballot for dueling, or at the very least, have any votes cast for him be declared invalid votes! And let the Republicans offer up a legal candidate, for it is a matter of letting the voters have a legal candidate that they can choose to vote for or against on their ballots, and it is a matter of upholding the standards of the integral office of the governorship of this, the greatest state in the union. Thank you.

– Chandler’s representative at the hearing, 10/1/1955

Let us review the facts of this case as laid out in the official police report. Matthew Stewart fired first and without warning, killing Shell Oil executive manager Robert Gibson, a business associate of Colonel Sanders whom was present at the scene. Sanders, fearing for his life, promptly fired back in self-defense, most probably saving the lives of himself and his other associates present at the scene. Justification for such a response as can be seen by the fatality of Stewart’s initial round of fire. Stewart was wounded, apprehend, trialed and jailed for his crime; no charges were ever filed against Colonel Sanders. Gentlemen, an exchange of gunfire in the act of defense and self-defense does not at all equal a duel. Sanders, by becoming a nominee for Governor, has not broken the law. Far from it! By defending his fellow businessmen, Sanders was a defender of the law, an enforcer of the law – Sanders singlehandedly brought a scoundrel and a murderer to justice and upheld the sacred institutions of this state’s constitution. Furthermore, Sanders had just cause for carrying a gun in a part of town witnesses have sworn was at the time of this incident commonly known by locals as, pardon the language, “the Devil’s A** hole” because of its “odor of deadliness.” Most importantly to this case, however, is the fact that neither Stewart nor Sanders had agreed to meet each other at this region. Ergo, this was not a duel. And gentlemen, if self-defense is now the definition of a duel, then most of Kentucky’s citizens will have to be locked up for dueling with prowlers, trespassers, and would-be killers and harm-doers. Judge, I plead you to use common sense in this ridiculous case. Thank you.

– Sanders’ representative at the hearing, 10/1/1955

While Mother's comments toward our dad were usually very negative, she stayed neutral during the court case. "It didn't matter what I said about it," I remember her telling me when I later talking to her about it. "I lived through that mess, but you didn't have to live through that mess to know that what Harland did back then was common-sense self-defense. You certainly don't need a judge's ruling to figure that out." She then conceded, "There's one good thing I can say about your father - he's a fighter, and sometimes, being a fighter is a good thing to be."

– Margaret Sanders’ The Colonel’s Secret: Eleven Herbs and a Spicy Daughter, StarGroup International, 1997

KFC HEAD WINS COURT CASE: State Court Rules In Favor of Col. Sanders, Verdict Quick: “Self-Defense Is Not a Form of Dueling.”

Louisville Times, KY newspaper, 10/6/1955


Frankfort, KY – Governor Lawrence Wetherby (D) at a press briefing delivered a condemnation to his party’s nominee for governor, Happy Chandler, and an endorsement to Republican nominee, K.F.C. founder Colonel Sanders. “Out of party loyalty, I stayed out of this election in which my friend the Colonel opposed my party’s candidate. But my party’s candidate has proven himself to be a man unworthy of the affiliation. He does not represent the moral standards of Kentucky Democrats. I do not believe that such a man should be governor. Compared to Chandler, Sanders is the man Kentucky needs to vote for this November.”

Kentucky Post, northern KY newspaper, 10/7/1955

Chandler was furious at the blowback of his legal challenge backfiring so badly. His standing in the polls began dropping as voters interviewed by the local media voiced disapproval of how much time the court case had taken up. One poll showed a majority of voters were unclear where Chandler stood on the issues, which befuddled Happy. He soon realized that, because he had been out of office for so long, many older voters had forgotten his previous gubernatorial campaign, while younger voters were completely unfamiliar with him. So, Happy decided to try to fix that by refocusing his campaign on the actual issues, although really, it was done with the hope that it would distract voters from the failed court challenge.

– Anonymous former aide to Happy Chandler, radio interview, 1971

“The people are right – we should focus more on the actual issues of this race. Take, for instance, Sanders’ desire to perform an extraordinary amount wasteful spending. Despite being a businessman, this self-declared Colonel would suffocate the free markets if given the chance. In his speeches, he frequently mentions dangerously borderline socialist concepts. He wants good Kentucky men and women to pay through the nose for things they don’t need or can get for themselves. If he likes the government having that much control over the people’s lives, then maybe Mister Sanders really was a Colonel – in the Red Army!”

– Chandler at a speaking engagement at the Brown Hotel, Louisville, KY, 10/13/1955

During the final campaign stretch, Chandler claimed that Sanders was “dangerously unfit for public office,” while Sanders focused on policy. Publicly, Sanders only occasionally mentioned his opponent. Privately, though, Sanders confessed that he didn’t “want to think of the sneak,” so instead focused on what he wanted to focus on. For instance, in a stump speech on October 14, Sanders talked about better education, noting he already was a grandfather, and only quickly referred to “his opponent” as “painting himself into more corners than Moe, Larry and Curly ever have.” Sanders took his first-hand accounts to use, advocating for road repair, farming and rural development, and vocational education programs. Most pivotal, however, was his supporting of small businesses, his calling for the “untangling” of the state government’s bureaucratic process, and his repeated claim that, as a businessman he knew what to do to get businesses to return to Kentucky. According to J. D. Vance, “13% of Kentuckians migrated out of state largely for economic reasons” in the 1950s, with most of them heading north to the car industry hubs of the Midwest [3]. State businesses heavily funded and/or otherwise backed the Sanders campaign in the belief that a business-oriented Governor would reverse or at least curb this situation.

– Robert A. Powell’s Kentucky Governors, Bluegrass Printing Company, 1976


[ ]
– Colonel Sanders on the campaign trail, getting out of his car to talk to potential voters, 10/17/1955


Bowling Green, KY – Vice President Richard Nixon travelled to Kentucky earlier today to endorse and speak at a campaign event for gubernatorial hopeful Harland Sanders. “The Colonel is a fine example of American hard work and self-reliance, and he will be an excellent governor,” Nixon said. Nixon also reportedly sat down with Sanders for a brief discussion before Nixon left to return to Washington.

With the state’s election for Governor only two weeks away, the Nixon endorsement may narrow an already-tight contest. The Democratic and Republican candidates that have received much press coverage in recent weeks…

The Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/23/1955

The Colonel went to Denney’s on election night. His running mate’s house was large enough for a small party. Even if we lost, we knew that at the least it would be the closest the Republicans had gotten to victory since 1943, and that would be worthy of at least some celebration. On election night, anticipation filled the air, surrounding us like bugs surrounding an abandoned caramel apple. Our father, the boisterous mountain man, sat on the edge of the couch he shared with his more urban-based running mate. As the election results came in county by county, most of the attendees anxiously listened to the radio, while others scribbled the digits onto a blackboard or inspected the state counties map on the wall. The results were narrow; the night wore on. At 1:05, we cheered when two northern counties put us in the lead. Then, at 2:31 AM, the election was called.

It was been a fight harder than the one Father had been promised by the man with a card all the way back in May. But now, finally, the fruits of our labor could be picked and enjoyed.

– Harland David “Harley” Sanders Jr., In the Thick of It: The Story of The Colonel and His Son, Sunrise Publishing, 1991


[ ]

Kentucky Gubernatorial General Election Results, 11/7/1955:
Colonel Sanders (Republican) – 434,552 (52.91%)
Happy Chandler (Democratic) – 384,206 (46.78%)
Robert H. Garrison (Prohibition) – 1,397 (0.17%)
Jesse K. Lewis (Free Citizens’) – 1,149 (0.14%)
Total votes cast: 821,305
Turnout: 31.94% Total Population

– [4]

“That son of a deep-fried f@#ker!” Happy bellowed out in rage.

Reports on the state level showed that Democratic voters were still split between the Clements-Wetherby-Combs and Chandler camps, with some former Combs backers even crossing party lines to vote for Sanders. For the state legislation, the Sanders campaign had energized enough Republican-leaning voters to increase the number of Republicans in the state legislature, but not by much. Results were similar for the Democrats holding majority control – among the Democrats there were slightly more “Clementines” then “Chandlerites.”

Chandler searched for a silver lining, “Well, at least Waterfield will be there to throw a few wrenches into his work.”

“Um, Boss?” another campaign worker chimed in, “the Lieutenant Governor results are in… Denney beat Waterfield.”

“Oh that son of a…” and Happy continued on like that for a little while before finally calming down again. He then asked the room, “Who’s stupid idea to challenge his eligibility was it anyway?”

“Uh, sir?” I began to speak, uncertain of how to remind him that it had been his own idea, when he interrupted.

“You? Well then you’re fired!”

That’s how I stopped working for that miserable miser of a man. And that’s why I really hope he doesn’t win in November…

– Anonymous former aide to Happy Chandler, radio interview, September 1971

Dad was overjoyed. When he heard that he had won, his facial expression switched from tired from working so much on the campaign to suddenly ebullient, practically charging him with a great surge of energy. He was ecstatic. Immediately after the election was called, the phone began ringing off hook, with one of the congratulators being President Eisenhower himself, much to Dad’s elation. It was only after several minutes of additional celebration did it begin to dawn on him that soon he would have to say goodbye to direct involvement with KFC, his brainchild that had brought him there. His face shifted to showing worry, but Harley was able to reassure him that he could handle it.

– Margaret Sanders’ The Colonel’s Secret: Eleven Herbs and a Spicy Daughter, StarGroup International, 1997

“Never let anyone ever tell you that your ideas and opinion don’t matter. Because if it’s a good idea, people will support it. And judging by the election results, me running for Governor was a pretty good idea! But this election also shows your trust and belief in me. And when somebody puts their trust in me, you better believe that I deliver, so help me God. I swear and promise, folks, that I will not let y’all down. You will not be forgotten, because it was the hard work – and also, the actual voting, of course – of all of y’all that made this new era of government responsibility possible! During the next four years, we will make Kentucky a state that benefits all! Thank’ya all so much for this incredible opportunity! Y’all will not be disappointed, I swear to it!”

– Colonel Sanders, 11/8/1955

…And another story today is the conclusion of the FCC case over the right to air KFC commercials during the past gubernatorial election. Democrats, after failing a cease-and-desist measure to be imposed for the final weeks of the campaign, backed Happy Chandler’s claims that his company’s advertisements created an unfair advantage and violated fair-use policies. Today, the judges at Kentucky’s Court of Appeals nor agreed nor disagreed – they threw out the case on mishandled documentation regarding the airings of the KFC commercials and other paperwork issues. Not exactly an exciting conclusion, but hey, that’s politics…

– WKCT 930 AM Bowling Green, KT, radio broadcast, 12/2/1955

“It’s a fast but delicate process. You have to be careful but strong-armed with the fryer. Don’t overcook, don’t undercook. And above all, don’t tamper with the recipe! It took me many years to get it down just right, and just one moment of idleness, laziness, or greed could wreck an entire franchisee’s revenue. There will be no sub-par chicken connected to my name!” Pops instructed Harley and I.

After several additional semesters, I had finally earned a business degree, and just in time for me to join the family business, no less. My post-college years truly started with our father finally (with Harley being 43, and I being 36, it was better late than never, I suppose) teaching us how to properly prepare his chicken. “The cracklin’ gravy takes advantage of the bits of breading left in the oil after frying” [5] were one of many details he successfully urged us to absorb. Pops adamantly claimed that “knowing the tricks of my trade” was essential to transitioning power from him to us. Harley would run the place, “at the top,” Pops would say, while Margaret and I would work part-time as the co-heads of marketing, joining a growing number of high-end workers to study recent trends, analyze the latest fads, and brainstorm and test a plethora of creative concepts and ideas. Staying true to his old policies, a majority of workers in those years were widows with young children [6], a fact that really made the company stand out in social circles.

When the day came to hand over the reins of organizing his franchising empire, there were mixed emotions, for sure – Pops seemed anxious and almost frightened that he would miss the company too much. However, we all were excited about the days ahead, and as those days marched past us, Pops grew to embrace the many possibilities of being governor more and more.

– Mildred Sanders Ruggles’ biography, My Father The Colonel: A Life of Love, Politics, and KFC, StarGroup International, 2000


[ ]
– Kentucky Governor-elect Colonel Sanders inspecting pressure fryers at a KFC franchise location in Valparaiso, Indiana, 12/3/1955


Corbin, KY – Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) Company founder and Kentucky Governor-elected Colonel Sanders has officially stepped down from the company, relinquishing managerial control to his son Harley Sanders. The move is to assure that the Colonel will have no potential conflict-of-interest incidents while Governor. According to some reports, however, Sanders will retain certain elements connected to the company that do not inhibit his upcoming administration, though the specifics of these elements are currently unknown. The move will likely not negatively affect the company’s soaring popularity, especially if the young Harley Sanders keeps true to his promise of “running the same tight ship” his father did. Stock is not an issue here, as KFC is a privately owned franchise company...

– The Wall Street Journal, 12/16/1955


[ ]
– Colonel Sanders at the beginning of the gubernatorial inaugural parade of 12/13/1955

…The Soon-to-be-Governor rides from his home in Corbin to a hotel room here in the state capital for final preparations. …The inaugural parade is kept simple under Colonel Sanders’ request. Still, large stands are built for the audience and the media, assembling their cameras and microphones and other equipment for the event. …Everything is ready for the big day. …The special guests are escorted to the platform. Colonel Sanders is congratulated by the outgoing Governor Clements. It should be noted that, while former Governors Clements, Willis, Johnson, Sampson and Stanley are in attendance, it appears that former Governor A. B. "Happy" Chandler, whom Sanders bested in this year’s election for Governor, is not. …Sanders takes the oath of office. …Sanders now addresses the audience…

– Transcript of dialogue of archived footage of the 1955 Kentucky Gubernatorial Inauguration, University of Kentucky Video Archives, 1955

“Ladies and gentlemen, words cannot express how humbled I am right now, but I will try to find the best words to use anyway. I guess that’s like politics. You never know what you’ll get unless you try. That is exactly why I am here and why you are all here. Because in Kentucky, we try things – we work, we explore, we create. We push the barriers that may try to hold us back. And as governor I will follow in this ethic. I promise to work for the people of this state. Because now is the time to work. Now is the time for action, to ensure for prosperity, stability, and greatness, for the people of Kentucky now and years from now. Together, we will make great accomplishments for this state – better roads, better education, and more jobs. What will make all the difference what will make these accomplishments happen, is combining of the efforts and ideas of conservatives and liberals, Democrats and Republicans, rich and poor, black and white, city folks and country folks, to make our state even greater than it already is. It will be a lot of work to clean up our problems, but in Kentucky, a problem is just a challenge that hasn’t been defeated yet. So let’s quit all this lollygaggin’ and let’s go to workin’!”

– Colonel Sanders, Inauguration speech, 12/13/1955

[1] IOTL and ITLL, this was the state’s highest court until the Kentucky Supreme Court was created in 1975:
[2] The date of this OTL incident and description of its location were found here:
[3] This quote is directly taken from the Wiki page for History of Kentucky and based on the 111th Reference
[4] These election details were based on info on the OTL race, which can be found here: The voter turnout is 5.5% higher than IOTL. The Prohibition Party’s nominee received less votes than OTL due to the Colonel’s teetotalism luring in those voters.
[5] Quote from here: (page 19)
[6] He’d “always hire” them; yes, really:
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Interesting stuff about ol' Colonel Sanders; BTW, his shooting would likely not be prosecuted in most of the US today, since he was acting in defense of others when he fired...

Wonder how he'll be as governor...