In memory of Sandy's very own Jack Laughery.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Jack Laughery, former CEO of Hardee's and considered one of Rocky Mount's most influential people, died Sunday morning in Jackson Hole, Wyo. He had been battling lung cancer and died of pneumonia at the age of 71.

President George H.W. Bush was among many well-known Republicans who Laughery befriended. Bush visited Laughery's Rocky Mount home on several occasions, referred to Laughery as a "good longtime friend," according to the transcript of a 1992 speech given in Miami, and acknowledged his presence during several other fundraising speeches in the early 1990s. He also visited Laughery during Laughery's cancer treatment at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Laughery also served as the national committeeman for the N.C. Republican Executive Committee. "He was huge in the political circles," said Tom Betts, Carolinas Gateway Partnership chairman and a friend of Laughery's. "He was everything to everybody for such a long time around here."

From 1975 to 1990, Laughery was chief executive officer of Hardee's, which was headquartered in Rocky Mount. For the next four years, he was the chairman of the company. For his work at Hardee's, the National Restaurant Association awarded him both the Silver Plate and the Gold Plate, the two highest national awards in the restaurant business.

Since 1993, Laughery has served on the board of directors for Papa John's. Laughery was instrumental in North Carolina politics, Betts said. Laughery served on the state budget advisory council and the N.C. State Board of Transportation.

He had a home in Rocky Mount and a home in Jackson Hole, usually spending six months of the year in each, Betts said.

Former N.C. Rep. Gene Arnold, a friend of Laughery's for almost 40 years, said he'll remember Laughery as a "people person." "He would meet people on the street in Jackson Hole and stop and take their picture. He'd spend 30 minutes talking to them," said Arnold, who traveled internationally with Laughery while working as senior vice president of development for Hardee's. "He was very comfortable talking to the manager of a restaurant, or to the president of a country. ... He was just a friend to everyone."

Laughery is survived by his wife, Helen, four daughters and several grandchildren.