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Burger King Pioneer Dead at 70

August 9, 1996

MIAMI (AP) _ James Whitman McLamore, a founder of Burger King Corp., died of cancer Thursday at home in suburban Coral Gables. He was 70.

``He was not just the co-founder of our company, he was the heart of it,″ said Burger King chairman Robert Lowes. ``Jim’s passion for the business made him a pioneer that others to this day try to emulate.″

McLamore and Dave Edgarton opened Insta Burger King in Miami in 1954 and went on to create the broiled Whopper, now consumed at the rate of 2 million a day. The pair sold the business to Pillsbury in 1967, and the world’s second-biggest fast-food company is now part of Britain’s Grand Metropolitan PLC.

``His heritage is he’s left his brand name in pretty near every village in America in his lifetime,″ said former Burger King chief executive Barry Gibbons. McLamore developed a ``very, very early and clear concept of branding even before it was sophisticated and designed as such.″

Wendy’s International Inc. founder Dave Thomas ranked McLamore with McDonald’s Ray Kroc and KFC’s Harlan Sanders as leaders in an industry that grew up with America’s suburbs.

Thomas, an occasional golfing buddy, remembered McLamore as ``a very fierce competitor but just a super, super guy″ willing to cut the ribbon when Wendy’s opened its 40th restaurant.

Born in New York City on May 30, 1926, McLamore got into the restaurant business at 24, running a 14-seat counter at Miami in 1950. The hamburger restaurant opened in 1954, and McLamore and Edgarton dropped Insta from their name in 1957, the same year the Whopper was introduced. Television advertising came a year later, and early franchising pushed the company to a national stage.

``It was a matter of I think giving more value and trying to give really fast service,″ Edgarton said of Burger King’s early success. ``What we tried to shoot for was 15-second service. Of course, our menu was more limited then.″

McLamore tended the financial end of the business, while Edgarton hit the road for expansion. The partnership worked well because they agreed on everything, Edgarton said.

McLamore served as Burger King’s president until 1970 and remained as chairman until 1976. McLamore was drafted again in 1993 by Jim Adamson, then Burger King chief operating officer, to help reinvigorate the company.

``He was able to help Burger King rebound at a time it had suffered for seven years,″ said Adamson, who will deliver McLamore’s eulogy. ``He was really my guiding spirit.″

McLamore was recognized for his public service, heading a campaign that raised $519 million for the University of Miami. He was a former part owner of the Miami Dolphins and past president of the National Restaurant Association. An avid gardener, he served as president of Fairchild Tropical Gardens in Miami.

McLamore was survived by his wife, Nancy; four children, Pamela Spence of Crystal Lake, Ill., Lynne Maddux of Cookville, Tenn., Sterline McLamore Sr. of Tampa and Susie McCormack of Telluride, Colo.; and eight grandchildren.

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