Basil Lewis

The Kentucky Colonel, Harlan Sanders

Harland Sanders was born in 1890 in the little town of Henryville in southern Indiana. The “colonel” was given to him in 1935 as an honorary title by the governor of Kentucky in recognition of his accomplishments, and ever afterward everyone called him “The Colonel”.

Sanders was five years old when his father died, and at that moment he took over his mother’s place as cook so that she could work in a factory. At the age of six he was baking rye bread by himself, such a grand achievement for a child so young that adults from near and far praised him highly for his skills. That praise engraved deeply in his mind the joy of serving others.

At ten, he started working on a farm and later did a wide variety of jobs including streetcar conductor, soldier, blacksmith’s assistant, railroad fireman and ferry captain. In 1930, in the small rural town of Corbin, Kentucky, he opened up a filling station. Realising that just as cars need gas, people need good food, he got a table and six chairs and opened the “Sanders Cafe” in a corner of the gas station. The fried chicken Sanders prepared was such a big hit with the customers that every day there was a long queue in front of the store waiting to be served. That was the beginning of what developed into the world’s largest fast food fried chicken chain.

Sanders had been an active Rotarian since 1919 when he became a founder member of the Rotary Club of Jeffersonville, Indiana, at the age of 29. After that he joined the Rotary Club of Corbin and then the Rotary Club of Shelbyville, and was an active member until 1980 when the door closed on his life of many achievements.

Colonel Harland Sanders was one person who truly lived the Rotary motto “He profits most who serves best”.

Hiroshi Numata (Rotary Club of Kyoto South)

Translated from the September 1998 edition of The Rotary-No-Tomo.

Submitted 23 October 2005 by Basil Lewis