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Our Famous Faces directory shares prominent business figures who hail from the Carolinas.

Ben Bernanke
Caleb Bradham
Charles E. Fraser
Chris Hughes
Jerry Richardson

Ben Bernanke 

Born December 13, 1953

bernanke-bookHe served as Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System under both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, and presided over one of the most difficult economic periods in recent history.  Prior to his appointment, he was Chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors and before that served the Federal Reserve System in a number of roles.

Dr. Bernanke also served as a Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton University. Married with two children, he was born in Augusta, GA, and raised in the small town of Dillon, in northeastern South Carolina. He attended public schools and according to some reports, earned money before and during college by working at South of the Border, a popular “highway oasis” along Interstate 95. Some reports suggest that he attained the highest SAT score in South Carolina in the year he graduated from high school.  Dr. Bernanke received his B.A. in economics in 1975 from Harvard (summa cum laude) and a Ph.D. in economics in 1979 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

Today, he’s a distinguished fellow in residence with the economic studies program at the Brookings Institution, affiliated with the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy, which will bring rigorous research analysis to critical questions in vital areas of economic policy.

In 2015 he published The Courage to Act, a memoir of his experiences with the Federal Reserve, including his discussion of the worst financial crisis and economic slump in America since the Great Depression.

Caleb Bradham

May 27, 1867 - February 19, 1934

The Story of Pepsi

famous-carolina-faces-caleb-bradham-pepsiCaleb Bradham was born in Chinquapin, NC in 1867. He graduated from the University of North Carolina. And enrolled in the University of Maryland School of Medicine to become a doctor. He earned spare money by working as a pharmacy apprentice. His plans changed when a family issue called him home.

The young man taught school for a time, and then opened a drug store in New Bern. In 1893, he concocted “Brad’s Drink,” made from sugar, water, caramel, lemon oil, nutmeg and other natural ingredients. Five years later, he changed the name to Pepsi Cola and promoted it as a healthy drink that aided in digestion.

Caleb Bradham married Charity Credle in 1901 and owned a home which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Slover-Bradham House.

In 1902, the Pepsi Cola Company was formed and Caleb Bradham was the first president. Eight years later, the company had 240 franchises in 24 states. And then World War I and sugar rationing hurt the young company which eventually declared bankruptcy and was sold to Craven Holding Corporation for $30,000.

The inventor remained in New Bern, and returned to operating his drug store. During the rest of his life, he served in a variety of positions, including president of the People’s Bank of New Bern, an officer in the naval reserve for 25 years, retiring as rear admiral, and a variety of other positions.

The man would no doubt be amazed at what the Pepsi Cola Company includes today. Caleb Bradham died in 1934.

Charles E. Fraser 

June 13, 1929 - December 15, 2002

famous-carolina-faces-charles-fraser-standingDeveloper of Sea Pines Plantation. Charles Fraser was a real estate pioneer who combined his love of history and the environment into a vision which transformed a tree-covered, sparsely populated barrier island off the coast of South Carolina into Sea Pines Plantation on Hilton Head Island.

It became one of the first projects to combine golf and real estate development in a planned community; to use covenants and deed restrictions to protect the environment; and one of the first communities which promoted inter-generational recreation. He graduated from the University of Georgia and Yale Law School, but abandoned practice to spend a lifetime creating magnificent communities, including Kiawah island Resort, near Charleston.

His friend, Margaret Greer, said, “He was a genius. You couldn’t crawl into that mind.” His brother, Joseph B. Fraser, called him “one of a kind,” adding, “There aren’t many people out there with his vision.” He was honored by the Urban Land Institute as a recipient of a Heritage Award, one of only five ever presented by that renowned organization.

For those who’ve visited Hilton Head Island, the design is based on a Mediterranean village. What many don’t know is that the design of the marina at Harbour Town was changed to save an ancient live oak, which came to be known as the Liberty Oak. Mr. Fraser died at age 73, as a result of a boating accident in the Turks and Caicos Islands. He is survived by his wife, Mary, and two daughters, and is buried next to that tree he loved so dearly.

Chris Hughes 

Born November 26, 1983

Hughes-dreamstime--27807189Co-founder, Facebook.

Chris Hughes is purposefully using the fortune he made through Facebook to make a difference – long term.

Born in Hickory, NC, to a traveling paper salesman and a schoolteacher, the young man left home at 15 to attend Phillips Academy, in Andover, Mass. Financial aid was a key factor in the decision. He did well and applied to Harvard. After he arrived on campus, life changed. His roommate assignment was Mark Zuckerberg. Together with another student, Dustin Moskovitz, the trio founded Facebook, and their fortunes took a meteoric turn upward. Along the way, Mr. Hughes graduated from Harvard, Magna Cum Laude, with a Bachelor of Arts in history and literature.

After leaving Facebook in 2007, Mr. Hughes moved to New York, and devoted himself to his passions, including spearheading the social networking organization of President Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. From 2014-2016, he was owner of The New Republic, a well-respected magazine founded in 1914 which covers liberal issues, politics and arts.

In 2016, he co-founded the Economic Security Project, a network committed to advancing the conversation on cash benefits and basic income in the United States.

An avid supporter of gay rights, he is married to Sean Eldridge, an American political activist and the founder and president of Stand Up America, a progressive advocacy community. Mr. Eldridge was previously political director of Freedom to Marry, a campaign promoting marriage equality nationwide.

Jerry Richardson –
The Big Cat

Born July 11, 1936

famous-faces-Richardson-JerryJerry Richardson was born in Spring Hope North Carolina, near Rocky Mount. He completed high school in Fayetteville, then entered Wofford College, in Spartanburg, SC, where he pledged to the Kappa Alpha Order fraternity, played football, created school records which hold to this day, and was elected Team Captain during his senior year.

He was drafted by the defending world champion Colts, named Colt Rookie of the Year in 1959, and played two seasons in the NFL, before taking his $4,744 championship bonus and, with his college buddy Charles Bradshaw, opened the first Hardee’s franchise in Spartanburg.
Expansion followed rapidly, and the two co-founded Spartan Foods.  Later, he was CEO of Flagstar, the sixth largest food service company in the nation, with 2,500 restaurants and more than 100,000 employees.

He became the first and only majority owner of the Carolina Panthers when they were unanimously awarded the NFL’s 29th franchise in 1993.  His nickname, The Big Cat, is a reference to the team as well as his negotiating skills.  He is the only person to be inducted into both the North and South Carolina Halls of Fame in business and athletics.

A lifelong resident of the Carolinas, he lives with his college sweetheart and wife, Florence, SC native Rosalind Sallenger Richardson, in Charlotte, NC.  His net worth is estimated at $500 million and he is a generous philanthropist to a variety of causes, including a $500,000 fully endowed scholarship in his wife’s honor to Winthrop College, where she attended school, as well as the new Rosalind Sallenger Richardson Center for the Arts at Wofford College, and a new Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium, also at Wofford.

After the Charleston Emanuel Church Shooting in 2015 which left nine people dead, Mr. Richardson donated $10,000 to each family of the slain victims, as well as $10,000 to the church where the shootings occurred.

The Richardsons are the parents of three children, Jon, Mark and Ashley (Jon died in 2013), nine grandchildren and one great grandchild.