Carl Nicholas Karcher, SMOM (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.
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.
Learn more about Carl Karcher and Carl's Jr. at the Carl's Jr. website.
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. The stand initially sold hot dogs and Mexican tamales. On January 16, 1945, they opened their first restaurant, Carl's Drive-In Barbecue in Anaheim.
Their restaurant quickly grew and they opened several more restaurants, numbering 100 by 1974 and more than 300 by 1981. He served for a time as Chairman and CEO of the company until his own company removed him from his position.
Karcher died on January 11, 2008 from complications of Parkinson's Disease, only 5 days before his 91st birthday.
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."
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.
Karcher was an active member of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. Carl and Margaret Karcher had 12 children. 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.
Karcher was a lifelong supporter of Conservative causes and contributed to anti-gay initiatives such as the Briggs Initiative.
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.
In 1978, he provided $1 million USD to California's Proposition 6, also known as the Briggs Initiative. He was the initiative's biggest financial supporter. The proposition was a ballot measure requiring the termination of all gays and lesbians from employment in public schools.
The initiative was defeated by over one million votes.