Colonel Sanders Net Worth, Biography, Age, Nationality, Family and Career Path

Colonel Harland David Sanders was an American businessman, best known for founding fast food chicken restaurant chain Kentucky Fried Chicken (also known as KFC) and later acting as the company’s brand ambassador and symbol. His name and image are still symbols of the company.

Profile Summary

Full Name/Popular Name Colonel Harland David Sanders/Colonel Sanders
Gender Male
Date of Birth – Date of death September 9, 1890 – December 16, 1980
Nationality American
Occupation Businessman and Founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC)
Net Worth $3.5 million

Early Life of Colonel Sanders

Harland David Sanders was born on September 9, 1890, in a four-room house located 3 miles (5 km) east of Henryville, Indiana. He was the oldest of three children born to Wilbur David and Margaret Ann (née Dunlevy) Sanders. His mother was of Irish and Dutch descent. The family attended the Advent Christian Church. His father was a mild and affectionate man who worked his 80-acre (32 ha) farm, until he broke his leg in a fall. He then worked as a butcher in Henryville for two years. Sanders’ mother was a devout Christian and strict parent, continuously warning her children of “the evils of alcohol, tobacco, gambling, and whistling on Sundays”.


Sanders’ father died in 1895. His mother got work in a tomato cannery, and the young Harland was left to look after and cook for his siblings. By the age of seven, in 1897, he was reportedly skilled with bread and vegetables, and improving with meat; the children foraged for food while their mother was away at work for days at a time. In 1899, his mother remarried to Edward Park, but according to the 1900 census, his mother was widowed again. When he was 10, in 1900, Sanders began to work as a farmhand.

Colonel Sanders Net Worth Biography Age Nationality Family And Career Path
Colonel Sanders

In 1902, Sanders’ mother remarried, to William Broaddus, and the family moved to Greenwood, Indiana. Sanders had a tumultuous relationship with his stepfather. In 1903 (age 12), he dropped out of seventh grade (later stating that “algebra’s what drove me off”), and went to live and work on a nearby farm. At age 13, he left home and took a job painting horse carriages in Indianapolis. When he was 14, he moved to southern Indiana to work as a farmhand.

Career Path of Colonel Sanders

In 1906, with his mother’s approval, Sanders left the area to live with his uncle in New Albany, Indiana. His uncle worked for the streetcar company, and secured Sanders a job as a conductor.

Sanders falsified his date of birth and enlisted in the United States Army in October 1906 (age 16), completing his service commitment as a wagoner (see teamster) in Cuba being awarded the Cuban Pacification Medal (Army). He was honourably discharged in February 1907 and moved to Sheffield, Alabama, where his uncle lived. There, he met his brother Clarence, who had also moved there in order to escape their stepfather. The uncle worked for the Southern Railway, and secured Sanders a job there as a blacksmith’s helper in the workshops. After two months, Sanders moved to Jasper, Alabama, where he got a job cleaning out the ash pans of trains from the Northern Alabama Railroad (a division of the Southern Railway) when they had finished their runs.

Sanders progressed to become a fireman (steam engine stoker) from the age of 16. He worked the job for nearly three years until he was fired for “insubordination” after he got sick.

Sanders found labouring work with the Norfolk and Western Railway from 1909. While working on the railroad, he met Josephine King of Jasper, Alabama, and they were married shortly afterwards on June 15, 1909, in Jasper. They would go on to have three children, Margaret Josephine Sanders, born March 29, 1910, in Jasper, Alabama and died October 19, 2001, in West Palm Beach, Florida, Harland David Sanders Jr. on April 23, 1912, in Tuscumbia, Alabama, who died on September 15, 1932, in Martinsville, Indiana, from infected tonsils, and Mildred Marie Sanders Ruggles, born October 15, 1919, in Jeffersonville, Indiana and died September 21, 2010, in Lexington, Kentucky. He then found work as a fireman on the Illinois Central Railroad, and he and his family moved to Jackson, Tennessee. By night, Sanders studied law by correspondence through the La Salle Extension University. Sanders lost his job at Illinois after brawling with a colleague. While Sanders moved to work for the Rock Island Railroad, Josephine and the children went to live with her parents.,

After a while, Sanders began to practice law in Little Rock, which he did for three years, earning enough in fees for his family to move with him. His legal career ended after a courtroom brawl with his own client destroyed his reputation. This period represented a low point for Sanders. As his biographer John Ed Pearce wrote, “[Sanders] had encountered repeated failure largely through bullheadedness, a lack of self-control, impatience, and a self-righteous lack of diplomacy.”

Following the incident, Sanders was forced to move back in with his mother in Henryville and went to work as a labourer on the Pennsylvania Railroad. In 1916, the family moved to Jeffersonville, where Sanders got a job selling life insurance for the Prudential Life Insurance Company. Sanders was eventually fired for insubordination. He moved to Louisville and got a sales job with Mutual Benefit Life of New Jersey.

In 1920 (age 30), Sanders established a ferry boat company, which operated a boat on the Ohio River between Jeffersonville and Louisville. He canvassed for funding, becoming a minority shareholder himself, and was appointed secretary of the company. The ferry was an instant success. Around 1922 he took a job as secretary at the Chamber of Commerce in Columbus, Indiana. He admitted that he was not very good at the job and resigned after less than a year. Sanders cashed in his ferry boat company shares for $22,000 ($350,000 today) and used the money to establish a company manufacturing acetylene lamp. The venture failed after Delco introduced an electric lamp that it sold on credit.

Sanders moved to Winchester, Kentucky, to work as a salesman for the Michelin Tire Company. He lost his job in 1924 when Michelin closed its New Jersey manufacturing plant. In 1924, by chance, he met the general manager of Standard Oil of Kentucky, who asked him to run a service station in Nicholasville. In 1930, the station closed as a result of the Great Depression.

n 1930, the Shell Oil Company offered Sanders a service station in North Corbin, Kentucky, rent free, in return for paying the company a percentage of sales. Sanders began to serve chicken dishes and other meals such as country ham and steaks. Initially he served the customers in his adjacent living quarters before opening a restaurant. It was during this period that Sanders was involved in a shootout with Matt Stewart, a local competitor, over the repainting of a sign directing traffic to his station. Stewart killed a Shell employee who was with Sanders and was convicted of murder, eliminating Sanders’ competition. Sanders was commissioned as a Kentucky Colonel in 1935 by Kentucky governor Ruby Laffoon. His local popularity grew, and, in 1939, food critic Duncan Hines visited Sanders’s restaurant and included it in Adventures in Good Eating, his guide to restaurants throughout the US.

Death of Colonel Sanders

Sanders was diagnosed with acute leukaemia in June 1980. He died at Louisville Jewish Hospital of pneumonia six months later, on December 16, at the age of 90. Sanders had remained active until the month before his death, appearing in his white suit to crowds. His body lay in state in the rotunda of the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort after a funeral service at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Chapel, which was attended by more than 500 people. His body would also be displayed in an open casket during a memorial service that was held at KFC’s headquarters in Louisville; 1,000 to 1,200 people would attend this service. Sanders was buried in his characteristic white suit and black western string tie in Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville.

He left his mistress, Claudia Ledington-Price, as manager of the North Corbin restaurant and motel. In 1942, he sold the Asheville business. In 1947, he and Josephine divorced, and Sanders married Claudia in 1949, as he had long desired. Sanders was “re-commissioned” as a Kentucky Colonel in 1950 by his friend, Governor Lawrence Wetherby. His wife, Claudia, died on December 31, 1996, at the age of 94.

By the time of Sanders’ death, there were an estimated 6,000 KFC outlets in 48 countries worldwide, with $2 billion in sales annually.

Colonel Sanders Net Worth

Colonel Sanders had an estimated net worth of more than $3.5 million at the time of his death. He made this huge fortune through his career as a successful businessman.


Before his death, Sanders used his stock holdings to create the Colonel Harland Sanders Charitable Organization, a registered Canadian charity. The wing of Mississauga Hospital for women’s and children’s care is named The Colonel Harland Sanders Family Care Centre in honour of his substantial donation. Sanders’ foundation has also made sizeable donations to other Canadian children’s hospitals including the McMaster Children’s Hospital, IWK Health Centre, and Stollery Children’s Hospital. The Toronto-based foundation disbursed $500,000 to other Canadian charities in 2016, according to its tax return filed with the Canada Revenue Agency.

In 1952, Sanders franchised his secret recipe “Kentucky Fried Chicken” for the first time, to Pete Harman of South Salt Lake, Utah, the operator of one of that city’s largest restaurants. In the first year of selling the product, restaurant sales more than tripled, with 75% of the increase coming from sales of fried chicken. For Harman, the addition of fried chicken was a way of differentiating his restaurant from competitors; in Utah, a product hailing from Kentucky was unique and evoked imagery of Southern hospitality. Don Anderson, a sign painter hired by Harman, coined the name Kentucky Fried Chicken. After Harman’s success, several other restaurant owners franchised the concept and paid Sanders $0.04 per chicken.

Sanders believed that his North Corbin restaurant would remain successful indefinitely; however, he sold it at age 65 after the new Interstate 75 reduced customer traffic. Left only with his savings and US$105 a month from Social Security (equivalent to $1,062 in 2021), Sanders decided to begin to franchise his chicken concept in earnest and travelled the US looking for suitable restaurants. After closing the North Corbin site, Sanders and Claudia opened a new restaurant and company headquarters in Shelbyville in 1959. Often sleeping in the back of his car, Sanders visited restaurants, offered to cook his chicken, and if workers liked it negotiated franchise rights.


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