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R. David Thomas Endowed Legislative Professorship

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Dave Thomas

R. David “Dave” Thomas was born in Atlantic City and was adopted as an infant by a Michigan couple. On his own at 15, he worked as a restaurant bus boy and lived at the YMCA. After a stint in the Army, he went to work as a short-order cook and became vice president of the Hobby House chain in Fort Wayne, Ind. In Ohio, he later built up part of the Kentucky Fried Chicken chain.

His restaurant, Wendy’s, opened in 1969 and is now a $6.5 billion company with more than 5,000 restaurants worldwide and 47,000 employees. Always wearing a white shirt and red tie, Thomas presented a friendly and unsophisticated image for the company. He passed away in January 2002. He and his wife, I. Lorraine Thomas, had five children. His daughter, Melinda “Wendy” Morse, for whom the restaurant is named, earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida.

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