Food & Drink

The Colonel’s First Lady

Reba may be grabbing headlines for her new role as the KFC founder. But behind that great man stood another great lady, and her restaurant is celebrating 50 years this year

Photo: Photo by John Olson/ The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

Colonel Harland David Sanders and his wife Claudia in their kitchen.

There’s a KFC outpost near the gates of Beijing’s Forbidden City, another overlooking the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt, and nearly twenty thousand more locations around the world, from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe. But that famous fried chicken became a global phenomenon from inside Blackwood Hall, just off U.S. Route 60 in rural Shelbyville, Kentucky, where the Colonel and Mrs. Sanders moved in 1959 after they launched their poultry empire in Corbin.

They sold the company a few years later and opened a modest sit-down restaurant, originally named the Colonel’s Lady, in 1968. The popular meat-and-three, now called Claudia Sanders’ Dinner House, changed hands in 1973 when the Sanderses sold it to their friends Tommy and Cherry Settle. Today, fifty years after its opening, the restaurant, which was rebuilt after a devastating 1999 fire, continues to dish out the Southern culinary hits: corn pudding, baked apples, stewed tomatoes, mac and cheese, pork chops, chicken livers, country ham, pies of all kinds, and yardbird, of course.

And in case you’ve missed it, here’s a look at Reba McEntire as Colonel Sanders.