Dave Thomas (American businessman)

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David "Dave" Thomas (July 2, 1932 – January 8, 2002) was an American restaurant owner and philanthropist. Thomas was the founder and chief executive officer of Wendy's Old Fashioned Hamburgers, a fast-food restaurant chain specializing in hamburgers. He is also known for appearing in more than 800 commercial advertisements for the chain from 1989 to 2002–more than any other person in television history.[1]



Dave Thomas was born on July 2, 1932 in Atlantic City, New Jersey to a young unmarried woman he never knew. He was adopted at 6 weeks by Rex and Auleva Thomas and as an adult would become a well-known advocate for adoption, founding the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. After his adoptive mother's death when he was 5, his father moved around the country seeking work. Dave spent time in Michigan with his grandmother Minnie Sinclair whom he credited with teaching him the importance of service and treating others well and with respect, lessons that helped him in his future business life.[2] At 12 he got his first job at The Regas, a restaurant in Knoxville, Tennessee, then lost it in a dispute with his boss. However, there is currently a large autographed poster-photo of Thomas just inside the entrance of The Regas. He vowed never to lose another job. Moving with his father, by 15 he was working in Fort Wayne, Indiana at the Hobby House Restaurant owned by the Clauss family. When his father prepared to move again, Dave decided to stay in Fort Wayne, dropping out of high school to work full time at the restaurant. Thomas, who considered ending his schooling the greatest mistake of his life, did not graduate from high school until 1993 when he obtained a GED.[3] Dave Thomas became an education advocate and founded the Dave Thomas Education Center in Coconut Creek, Florida, which offers GED classes to young adults.

U.S. Army

At the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, rather than waiting for the draft, he volunteered for the U.S. Army to have some choice in assignments. Having food production and service experience, Thomas requested the Cook's and Baker's School at Fort Benning, Georgia. He was sent overseas to Germany as a mess sergeant and was responsible for the daily meals of 2000 soldiers, rising to the rank of Staff Sergeant. After his discharge in 1953, Thomas returned to Fort Wayne and the Hobby House.

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