Herman Lay

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Herman Lay
BornMarch 6, 1909 (1909-03-06)
DiedDecember 6, 1982 (1982-12-07) (aged 73)
OccupationBusinessman, philanthropist

Herman Warden Lay (March 6, 1909 in Charlotte, North Carolina – December 6, 1982 in Dallas, Texas)[1] was an American businessman who was involved in potato chip manufacturing with his eponymous brand of Lay's potato chips. He started H.W. Lay Co., Inc., now part of the Frito-Lay corporation, a subsidiary of PepsiCo.[2]

Early life[edit]

Lay was born in Charlotte, North Carolina on March 6, 1909.[2][3] His father, Jesse N. Lay, worked for International Harvester, first as a bookkeeper in Charlotte and later as a commercial salesman in Columbia, South Carolina, where the family moved.[2] By 1920, they moved to Greenville, South Carolina.[2] In 1922 his mother died of cancer and his father remarried.[2] He then attended Furman University on an athletic scholarship for two years, but did not graduate.[2][3]


He began his career at Sunshine Biscuits and was fired because of the Great Depression.[4][5] He then worked as a traveling salesman for the Barrett Food Company, when he delivered potato chips to his customers in his Ford Model A.[6] His territory eventually expanded and his profits began to grow. In 1932, he borrowed US$100 and founded the H.W. Lay Distributing Company based in Atlanta, Georgia, a distributor for the Barrett Food Products Company, and began to hire employees.[7][8][9] He peddled potato chips from Atlanta to Nashville, Tennessee.[3][10] By 1937, he had 25 employees, and had begun producing his own line of snack foods.

The H.W. Lay & Company merged with The Frito Company in September 1961, creating the largest-selling snack food company in the United States, the Frito-Lay corporation.[2][3][11] In 1965, Herman W. Lay (Chairman and Chief executive officer of Frito-Lay) and Donald M. Kendall (President and Chief executive officer of Pepsi-Cola) merged the two companies and formed PepsiCo, Inc.[12]

A philanthropist, he helped found the Association of Private Enterprise Education (APEE).[4]

Personal life[edit]

Lay married Sarah Amelia "Mimi" Harper[13] and had four children.[2] He died at the age of 73 on December 6, 1982.[2] His late son, Herman Warden Lay Jr., was a Dallas-based co-founder of a bottling company in Mexico for Pepsi and 7 Up.[14]


The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has a room named after him.[15] His alma mater, Furman University, offers a scholarship in his name.[16] The Furman University Herman W. Lay Physical Activities Center is named for him.[17] The Lay Ornamental Garden in the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden is named for him [18]


  1. ^ www.findagrave.com
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Archived April 14, 2013, at Archive.today
  3. ^ a b c d Laura Lee, The Name's Familiar: Mr. Leotard, Barbie, and Chef Boy-Ar-Dee, Pelican Publishing, 1999, p. 159 [1]
  4. ^ a b The Smith Center for Private Enterprise Studies Archived July 30, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Dirk E. Burhans, Crunch!: A History of the Great American Potato Chip, Terrace Books, 2008, p. 40 [2]
  6. ^ Frito Lay history
  7. ^ Happy 50th anniversary, Frito-Lay -- PEPline looks back at FLNA's history Archived February 1, 2013, at Archive.today, Pesico Press release, September 29, 2011
  8. ^ Texas State Historical Association
  9. ^ Snack Food Association
  10. ^ Lovedeep Kaur, Advances in Potato Chemistry and Technology, Academic Press, 2009, p. 28 [3]
  11. ^ The Wall Street Journal, Dallas
  12. ^ PepsiCo, Our history Archived June 6, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ APSU benefactor, alumna, heiress to Frito-Lay Co. dies
  14. ^ Joe Simnacher, Herman Warden Lay Jr., son of snack icon who found his own success in business, dies at 66, Dallas News, 28 October 2011
  15. ^ U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Meeting Space
  16. ^ Furman University scholarships
  17. ^ Physical Activities Center Furman University.
  18. ^ Lay Ornamental Garden