Industry News | July 26, 2011

KFC Wants Your Memories of Colonel Sanders

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KFC wants you … and your Colonel Sanders stories. Thirty years after Colonel Harland Sanders left his legacy as the iconic founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken, the brand is reinvesting in his image and memory via a website designed to reach a new generation.

To keep Sanders’ legacy alive, KFC today launched, an online destination designed to collect photos, videos, and stories about Colonel Sanders from family members, friends, and everyday Americans who either met or knew of the American icon.

“Colonel Sanders, his secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices, and all he achieved are the cornerstones of our company,” says Barry Westrum, chief marketing officer for KFC. “We’re honored to launch this project to preserve the memory of our founder by collecting stories from folks far and wide.”

Based on the submissions the website collects, KFC may compile and release the stories at a later date.

Along with being an iconic American entrepreneur, Colonel Sanders was also a Southern gentlemen, says Shirley Topmiller, who served as the Colonel’s assistant and worked at KFC for 28 years before her retirement.

“We know there are countless stories out there about the Colonel,” says Topmiller, who as Sanders’ assistant handled everything from scheduling his television appearances to ordering his famed white suits.

Now, Topmiller is helping to lead the campaign to preserve the legacy of her former boss.

“If you knew the Colonel, met him during all of his travels, saw him on television, or just heard a story or two from a friend of a friend, we’d love to hear from you,” Topmiller says. “We want to preserve all of these great memories before they’re gone forever.”

Colonel Sanders Remembered

At the age of 65, Harland Sanders turned a $105 Social Security check into a global chicken empire, and until his death at the age of 90, traveled 250,000 miles a year visiting KFC restaurants worldwide. For years, he carried the secret Original Recipe in his head and the spice mixture in his car as he drove coast to coast visiting franchisees.

“I’m thrilled to be helping preserve stories from the Colonel’s life so that future generations can understand what an important role he played in the history of KFC and our country,” Topmiller says.


Am very pleased and excited to see this campaign. The Colonel was a truly unique and remarkable human being. Far from perfect, however, he was a man of his word and what you saw was clearly what you would get. He would not mince words, right or wrong, you always knew where he stood on any issues. I was fortunate enough to work "around" him at the Louisville Headquarters early in my career and fortunate enough to travel with him a few times. As a result, I would have to say the Colonel has probably, more than any other, influenced my values in conducting business these past 40 years or so. He didn't need contracts, his handshake and word was his bond. Anything he lacked in formal education was more than made up for in life experiences and ethics.

In the later 1940s my parents, the late Bruce and Easter Ratliff, took four of their youngest of seven children and spent a week in Daytona Beach, Fla. We always got up about 4:30 a.m. to travel Highway 27 to Corbin for breakfast with the Colonel. Remember there were no interstates!On one trip down, the Colonel stopped at our table and speaking to my Dad said, "Bruce when you have finished eating come back to the kitchen, I want to talk to you."Dad finished and went back to the kitchen, stayed about 15 minutes and returned to us. He paid our bill and we continued our trip down the highway.About 30 minutes later my Mother asked Dad what the Colonel wanted. Dad replied, "Oh, he's got some fool noticed about mixing up a bunch of herbs anf spices and selling fried chicken across the United States. He wanted to know if I wanted to put $10,000 into the venture.""Mother immediately said, "You didn't did you?"My Dad said, "Hell no, that idea will never fly."A successful busiess man himself, my Dad soon learned that the Colonel was right.We continued our breakfast stops at the Colonel's Corbin restaurant for a long time and he and my Dad remained good friends through the years.

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