Farewell to the Potato Titan

The 99-year-old multibillionaire potato magnate responsible for McDonald’s french fries died last weekend of natural, presumably non-potato-related, causes. For good or ill, J. R. Simplot pioneered the frozen fry that rocked the country’s nascent fast-food business in the 1950s.

‘We built the first frozen french fry …,’ Simplot said. ‘I had a chemist that showed me what he could do with a french fry — I couldn’t believe it!’

J.R. made a hand shake deal with Ray Kroc, the man at the helm of the fast food chain, to supply the new frozen spuds to the fast-growing business.

The KTVB obit is a pretty good financial-life-and-times survey, but the Esquire interview of a 92-year-old Simplot is a good deal more entertaining and thought-provoking. Its opening two paragraphs:

I got no religion in me. I could never see through it. Basically, I’m a facts man; if I can’t see through it, I say it’s not possible.

You’re dead, that’s the end of you. There’s no tomorrow.

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