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Thomas Forkner Sr. (1918–2017)

Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP / File / Frank Niemeir

Co-founder of the Waffle House restaurant chain

Thomas Forkner Sr., who co-founded the Waffle House restaurant chain in the 1950s, has died at 98. He died less than two months after the death of his Waffle House business partner, Joe Rogers Sr.

Waffle House said in a statement that Forkner died Wednesday, April 26, 2017.

Forkner was working in real estate in Dekalb County outside of Atlanta when he sold a house to Joe Rogers Sr., who was working for the Toddle House restaurant chain. According to Forkner, Rogers proposed the creation of a sit-down, quick-service eatery saying, "You build a restaurant, and I'll show you how to run it." The partners eventually settled on the Waffle House name proposed by Forkner.

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On Labor Day 1955, they opened the first 24-hour Waffle House in the Atlanta suburb of Avondale Estates. The chain had more than 400 restaurants when the two partners sold the business to Joe Rogers Jr. in the late 1970s.

Waffle House Chairman Joe Rogers Jr. said in a statement, "Tom and my father had a handshake deal, and their partnership and friendship continued for more than 60 years.

"Tom and Joe were great partners, Tom working the real estate side of the business and my father operating the restaurants."

A notable golfer, Forkner once finished second in the U.S. Senior Open.

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