Herman Lay

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Herman Lay
Born 1909
Charlotte, North Carolina
Died 1982
Dallas, Texas, U.S.A
Occupation Businessman, philanthropist

Herman Warden Lay (1909 – 1982) 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.[1]

Early life[edit]

Lay was born in Charlotte, North Carolina on March 6, 1909.[1][2] 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.[1] By 1920, they moved to Greenville, South Carolina.[1] In 1922, his mother died of cancer and his father remarried.[1] He then attended Furman University on an athletic scholarship for two years, but did not graduate.[1][2]


He began his career at Sunshine Biscuits and was fired because of the Great Depression.[3][4] 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.[5] 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.[6][7][8] He peddled potato chips from Atlanta to Nashville, Tennessee.[2][9] 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.[1][2][10] 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.[11]

A philanthropist, he helped found the Association of Private Enterprise Education (APEE).[3]

Personal life[edit]

He married Sarah Amelia "Mimi" Harper[12] and had four children.[1] He died at the age of 73 in 1982.[1] His late son, Herman Warden Lay Jr., was a Dallas-based co-founder of a bottling company in Mexico for Pepsi and 7 Up.[13]


The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has a room named after him.[14] His alma mater, Furman University, offers a scholarship in his name.[15] The Lay Ornamental Garden in the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden is named for him [16]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Charlotte Mecklenburg Library
  2. ^ a b c d Laura Lee, The Name's Familiar: Mr. Leotard, Barbie, and Chef Boy-Ar-Dee, Pelican Publishing, 1999, p. 159 [1]
  3. ^ a b The Smith Center for Private Enterprise Studies
  4. ^ Dirk E. Burhans, Crunch!: A History of the Great American Potato Chip, Terrace Books, 2008, p. 40 [2]
  5. ^ Frito Lay history
  6. ^ Happy 50th anniversary, Frito-Lay -- PEPline looks back at FLNA's history, Pesico Press release, September 29, 2011
  7. ^ Texas State Historical Association
  8. ^ Snack Food Association
  9. ^ Lovedeep Kaur, Advances in Potato Chemistry and Technology, Academic Press, 2009, p. 28 [3]
  10. ^ The Wall Street Journal, Dallas
  11. ^ PepsiCo, Our history
  12. ^ APSU benefactor, alumna, heiress to Frito-Lay Co. dies
  13. ^ 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
  14. ^ U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Meeting Space
  15. ^ Furman University scholarships
  16. ^ Lay Ornamental Garden