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Who started Chick-fil-A?

Daniella Genovese

Chick-fil-A has made quite the name for itself since it broke into the fast-food industry in 1946.

The company, which continues to be family-owned, was founded by the late American businessman and philanthropist Samuel Truett Cathy.

Cathy helped the chicken chain climb its way to the top of the industry before stepping down as chairman in November 2013, relinquishing the company to his eldest son, Dan Cathy, Forbes reported.

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The billionaire, whose worth hovered around $6.2 billion as of March 2014, according to estimates by Forbes, rose from poverty by building a privately held restaurant chain that famously closes every Sunday.

Cathy opened his first postwar diner in an Atlanta suburb in 1946 and by 1967 he had founded and opened his first Chick-fil-A Inc. restaurant in Atlanta.

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Eventually, the chain’s boneless chicken sandwich he is credited with inventing would propel Chick-fil-A expansion to more than 1,800 outlets in 39 states and the nation’s capital.

In the '60s, Cathy came up with the idea for the unique sandwich when a local poultry supplier asked if he wanted to take his excess boneless, skinless chicken breasts to use in his restaurant, according to the company’s website.

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Since then, the sandwich has become widely recognized as a key player in the highly publicized chicken sandwich wars that pitted the country's biggest fast-food competitors against one another. The wars first erupted when Popeyes debuted its version of the fired piece of poultry on a bun, directly competing with Chick-fil-A. What followed was a surge in sales and social media hype.

Under the religiously conservative founder, the chain gained prominence for its Bible Belt observance of Sunday — none of its hundreds of restaurants are open on that day, to allow employees a day of rest.

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Even well into his 80s, Cathy was actively involved in the chain’s operations, including setting up a contract with his children that said they may sell the privately owned chain in the future but the company must never go public.

Cathy also was known for his efforts to help youth. In 1984 he created the WinShape Foundation to help “shape winners” through youth support programs and scholarships. He also created a long-term program for foster children that has foster care homes in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and Brazil.

Cathy’s multibillion-dollar fortune as the founder of Chick-fil-A puts him on the yearly Forbes magazine list of the wealthiest Americans in the country.

The company has listed him on its website as its chairman emeritus after he left day-to-day operations to younger generations.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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