Carl Karcher

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Carl Karcher
Carl Karcher.jpg
Born Carl Nicholas Karcher
(1917-01-16)January 16, 1917
Upper Sandusky, Ohio, U.S.
Died January 11, 2008(2008-01-11) (aged 90)
Fullerton, California, U.S.
Cause of death Parkinson's disease
Resting place Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Orange, California
Occupation Entrepreneur
Religion Roman Catholic
Spouse(s) Margaret Karcher
(1939–2006, her death)

Carl Nicholas Karcher (January 16, 1917 – January 11, 2008) was an American businessman, founder of the Carl's Jr. hamburger chain, now owned by parent company CKE Restaurants, Inc.

Early life[edit]

Born on a farm near Upper Sandusky, Ohio, Karcher was the son of Ohio natives Leo and Anna Maria (Kuntz) Karcher. Leo Karcher's grandparents immigrated from Belgium; Anna Maria Kuntz was of German ancestry. Carl N. Karcher moved to Anaheim, California, where his uncle ran a small business. He was hired by his uncle and worked for him for three years, and later dropped that job to work at a bakery as a delivery boy which increased his weekly salary by $6. He married Margaret Magdalen Heinz Karcher in 1939.[1]

Restaurant business[edit]

Karcher and his wife started their first business, a hot dog stand, on July 17, 1941 in Los Angeles, California when they borrowed $311 against their Plymouth automobile and added $15 from Margaret's purse.[2][3] The stand initially sold hot dogs and Mexican tamales. On his 28th birthday, January 16, 1945, they opened their first restaurant, Carl's Drive-In Barbecue, in Anaheim.[3][4]

Their restaurant quickly expanded, with the restaurants numbering 100 by 1974 and over 300 by 1981. Karcher served for a time as Chairman and CEO of the company until his own company removed him from the position for his desire to take the company private.[citation needed]

Karcher died on January 11, 2008, from complications of Parkinson's Disease, only 5 days before his 91st birthday.[5]


Carl Karcher received numerous awards for his philanthropy, including, in 1979, the Horatio Alger Award "for his distinction in accomplishments through individual initiative, hard work and adherence to traditional ideals."[6]

On January 16, 2007, which was his 90th birthday, Karcher and his deceased wife Margaret were recognized with the placement of a star on the Anaheim/Orange County Walk of Stars.[7]

Personal life[edit]

Karcher was an active member of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. Carl and Margaret Karcher had 12 children.[3] Their son Jerome T. Karcher, who is a priest in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, received the Man of Character Award from the Boy Scouts of America for founding Mercy House in Orange County for the homeless and those with AIDS.[8]

Political activities[edit]

Karcher was a lifelong supporter of Conservative causes.

Karcher was an early supporter of John Schmitz, a Republican and member of the John Birch Society, who represented Orange County in the California State Senate and later Congress.[9]

In 1978, he contributed US$1 million to California's anti-gay Proposition 6 initiative, also known as the Briggs Initiative.[5] He was the initiative's biggest financial supporter. The proposition was a ballot measure requiring the termination of all homosexuals and lesbians from employment in public schools, and was defeated by over one million votes.[10]


  1. ^ Schlosser, Eric (2002). Fast Food Nation. New York: Houghton Mifflin. pp. 14–15. ISBN 0-06-093845-5. 
  2. ^ Schlosser, Eric (2002). Fast Food Nation. New York: Houghton Mifflin. p. 15. ISBN 0-06-093845-5. 
  3. ^ a b c Carl N. Karcher; 90 remarkable years
  4. ^ Schlosser, Eric (2002). Fast Food Nation. New York: Houghton Mifflin. p. 18. ISBN 0-06-093845-5. 
  5. ^ a b Carl Karcher, Founder of Carl's Jr. Chain, Dies at 90,, January 13, 2008
  6. ^ Biography and video at Carl's Jr. company site, retrieved 2010-08-15
  7. ^ Campbell, Bill (2007-01-19). "Bill Campbell's Third District Report". Board of Supervisors, Orange County, California. Retrieved 2010-08-14. 
  8. ^ Mercy House
  9. ^ David Haldane and Jean O. Pasco (11 January 2001). "Obituary: John Schmitz, Former Right-Wing Congressman From Orange County". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 23 Aug 2015. 
  10. ^ Secretary of State (1978). Statement of Vote. State of California.

A remarkable lunch with Carl Karcher