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Carl Karcher, Founder of Carl’s Jr., Dies at Age 90

Carl Karcher was the mind and soul behind the Carl’s Jr. Restaurant chain that launched his empire back in 1956. His life and rise in the restaurant industry reads like the quintessential rags to riches story that shows a strong character, iron determination, and the ability to understand the needs of the public and rise to meet them. Tirelessly aided by his wife, he pursued the business and successfully grew his company.

Not one to hoard his wealth, Mr. Karcher and his family put to work their wealth and their faith, and the Karcher family is known as a pillar in the community and his tireless efforts to better the lives of those less fortunate was recognized by the Vatican by bestowing on him the honor of the Pope John XXIII Award, as reported by CNN.

Yet on the occasion of Mr. Karcher’s death from Parkinson’s disease on 01-11-08 in Fulleerton, California at the age of 90, those who would compile his biographies stumbled over some potentially inconvenient truths.

What does not sit well in a day and age of political correctness is Mr. Karcher’s support of California’s 1978 Proposition 6 that sought to prevent gay and lesbian teachers from keeping their jobs should their sexual preference be discovered. His financial backing of the proposition was reported by Bloomberg’s Mark Schoifet who also broke the news of Mr. Karcher’s death.

Detractors of Mr. Karcher are already coming out of the woodwork, and the OC Weekly published a most heinous column by Gustavo Arellano who refers to the man as the “burger bigot baron” and decries Mr. Karcher’s attempts at explaining his support of the famously infamous proposition as being little more than the utterings of an “ignoramus.”

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(Even one who would not presume to educate Mr. Arellano might feel the need to point out that no matter how misguided, according to Wikipedia the 1978 Proposition 6 did in fact suggest that gay teachers who were found to be “advocating, imposing, encouraging or promoting” homosexual activity could be fired” thus negating the blanket accusation that any person of GLB community was to be automatically terminated.)

Thus does the death of Carl Karcher reawaken examination of philanthropy and allegations of bigotry, and while it would be overly simple to claim that Mr. Karcher was little more than a wealthy capitalist who sought to make the world in his image (no matter over whom he would have to climb to do so), there are those who are entirely too content to leave it at that.

Yet perhaps those who value facts may want to look behind the hype and see Mr. Karcher for who he really was: a deeply religious man who thought he was doing right by the children whom he sought to protect (misguidedly or otherwise) and who made mistakes alongside a lot of good and worthwhile things. Thus, perhaps instead of condemning the man for taking an unpopular stand back in 1978, society as a whole would be better served by honoring his legacy of service and contributing to the Mercy House.