1969 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"Little did I know as a youngster selling snacks at the ballpark that I would one day head one of the largest snack companies in the U. S."
Herman Lay was born in 1909 in Charlotte, North Carolina. His father was raised on a farm and sold farm machinery. When he was a youngster, he moved with his family to Greenville, South Carolina. At the age of 10, Lay had his first successful job. He sold soft drinks and snacks on his front lawn, which was located across the street from the local baseball park.
A gifted athlete, Lay attended Furman University on a baseball/basketball scholarship. He left two years later, however, to pursue a sales career. At the age of 24, the Depression was making it difficult for Lay to find a job. He placed classified ads and wrote 200 letters to prospective employers. He received one response, which was from Barrett Potato Chip Co. in Atlanta, distributor of Gardner's Potato Chips. He interviewed for the job, but turned it down because he felt there was no future in potato chips. A week later, however, he still had no job. He returned to Barrett and was hired as a salesman, and became the Nashville distributor that same year. Within three years, he had 25 employees working in his territory.
In 1938, Lay ought Barrett's plants in Atlanta and Memphis for $60,000. He reorganized the business into H. W. Lay & Co., which sold potato chips and other snacks, including Fritos corn chips. In 1961, he formed Frito-Lay, Inc., a national snack and convenience foods company, which in 1965 merged with Pepsi-Co. Lay became chairman of the board of Pepsi-Co, Inc.* Deceased