Presented by the Laurens County Historical Society, Dublin, Georgia. For questions and information, please contact Scott B. Thompson, Sr. at dublinhistory@yahoo.com.

Friday, April 29, 2016

JACK MASSEY


ENTREPRENEUR EXTRAORDINAIRE

Jack Massey knew a good deal and how to make dollars, millions of dollars, from his investments.  This native of Tennille, Georgia was a major owner of Kentucky Fried Chicken and a major franchisee of Wendy’s Hamburgers.  When his customers had too much fried chicken, cheese burgers and fries, his other major business interest, Hospital Corporation of America, would treat them for heart attacks, high blood pressure and other associated illnesses. 

Jack Carroll Massey was born in Tennille, Georgia on June 15, 1904.  During the latter years of the 1920s, A drugstore delivery boy in his uncle’s pharmacy, Massey obtained a pharmacy degree from the University of Florida and set his aim on operating a drug store as his life’s career.

At the age of nineteen, Massey obtained his pharmacist’s license.  He bought his first store six years later and sold his his chain of drug stores while he was in his early 30s.  In his mid 1950s, Massey ventured into the surgical supply business.

When Jack turned 57 years old in 1961, he thought about retiring.  That thought didn’t last long.

Massey was bored with playing golf and decided that buying and building businesses was what he still wanted to do.

Fate led him to John Y. Brown, Jr., a lawyer from Kentucky, who would eventually become governor of that Bluegrass State.   Brown and Massey approached Harlan Sanders, a small scale restauranteur who mainly sold his chicken to small restaurants and diners.  It was a business with little organization and corporate structure, one which was ideal for Massey and Brown to buy and make into an icon of American fast food eateries.

The two-million dollar deal was made.  Sanders remained as the face of Kentucky Fried Chicken while Massey and Brown ignited a spark with massive ad campaigns in newspapers, magazines and television and turned Kentucky Fried Chicken into the largest fast food business in America in just four years.  Fortune seekers all over America bought stock in the company.  Kentucky Fried Chicken stock became one of the hottest stocks on the New York Stock Exchange.

Elbert Mullis, who had operated the Shake and Burger in Dublin, Georgia’s  Shamrock Shopping Center, was one of the lucky ones and opened one of the first KFC franchises in Middle Georgia on June 18, 1965.

Another early franchisee and one of the chain’s largest was Dave Thomas, who founded Wendy’s hamburger restaurants.  Seven years and  some 3500 franchises later, Massey and Brown sold the business for $239,000,000.00.

Massey’s golden touch succeeded once again in 1968, when he joined with Thomas Frist, Sr. and Thomas Frist, Jr. (above) to found Hospital Corporation of America.  The organization was an unqualified success as the nation’s largest chain of for-profit hospitals with 11 hospitals within 18 months.  By the end of the Seventies, HCA registered more than a billion dollars in annual revenues. Again, in typical fashion, Massey founded the business, worked his magic and left the management, and sold the nation’s largest operator of hospitals.

Hospital Corporation of America purchased Laurens County’s Memorial Hospital  in the early 1980s and operated it for a few years until a new modern hospital was built on Industrial Boulevard.

Not satisfied with being a king, or co-king of the fried chicken business, Massey, a Nashville, Tennessee resident for a half century,  formed Winner’s Corporation, which became one of the country’s largest franchisees of Wendy’s hamburger restaurants in the United States and operated its own Mrs. Winner’s chicken restaurants.

Massey, was an entrepreneur and a philanthropist.   He helped to establish Nashville’s Baptist Hospital.  In addition to his substantial monetary donations, Massey gave twenty years of his life and sage business knowledge as a hospital trustee, twelve of which he served as chairman of the board.

Jack Massey’s gifts left a long lasting legacy on his adopted state of Tennessee.    He was posthumously honored in 2005 by Belmont University when it named a financial trading room in his memory.  The university also established the Jack C. Massey Graduate School.   The University of Florida established a fund to assist professors in his memory.

A 1987 inductee into Junior Achievment’s United States Business Hall of Fame, Massey worked to establish Corrections Corporation of America, which is today the nation’s largest private corrections company.

Of his appetite for financial adventure, Mr. Massey once said: ''Lots of people have more than I do, but not many have as much fun. The fun is in the accomplishing.''

Jack Massey died on February 15, 1990.

In commenting on his death, an editor of Advantage magazine opined, “Last month, the most improbable thing happened. Jack Massey retired. He passed away on the morning of February 15, leaving behind a legacy of mythical proportions and only likely to increase as the months roll on. Jack Massey was the embodiment of the American spirit, an amalgamation of sophisticated business acumen and frontier expansionism.  He was a liberal giver of both money and advice. But Jack Massey was no saint.  He was known as a ruthless negotiator who could, as one acquaintance put it, ‘talk you out of your last penny.’”

His HCA business partner, Dr. Thomas Frist, Jr. wrote, “His achievements in numerous business enterprises are legendary, and his ability to capture and move forward an innovative concept may be his greatest legacy.... He was truly a business genius.”

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