Harlow Fullwood Jr., a former Baltimore police officer who made his fortune operating fried-chicken franchises and established a foundation that has helped more than 1,000 students attend college, died of diabetes complications Saturday at Woodbridge Valley ManorCare in Catonsville. He was 65.
Mr. Fullwood died just hours after his foundation's annual benefit and award breakfast, which was attended by more than 2,000.
"He was holding on to make sure that everything went on as he scheduled it to go," said his daughter, Paquita Fullwood-Stokes of Randallstown.
Born in a small town near Asheville, N.C., Mr. Fullwood was primarily raised by his grandmother because his mother, a domestic worker, and his father, a bus porter, worked long hours, said Herbert C. Sledge Jr., a friend who helped him write his autobiography.
He graduated 10th in his class from Stephens-Lee High School in Asheville in 1959. He was awarded a football scholarship to Virginia Union University, where he met his future wife, Elnora Bassett. An All-American football player, Mr. Fullwood was drafted by both the Baltimore Colts and the Buffalo Bills in 1963. He signed with the Colts but was cut after a brief stint in training camp.
He then joined the Baltimore Police Department, where he served for 23 years, primarily as a police recruiter. During his time with the police force, he earned an associate's degree from what was then the Community College of Baltimore and completed a bachelor's degree in sociology at Virginia Union University.
As a police officer, he was called "Officer Friendly," Mr. Sledge said. He led police-sponsored trips that took the city's young people to tour college campuses, canoe on the Pocomoke River and swim at Ocean City.
He was presented with a Distinguished Service Award when he left the Police Department in 1986. But it was his second career, as an owner of KFC franchises, that enabled Mr. Fullwood to realize his dream of establishing a charitable foundation.
At the time, the fast-food chain had signed an agreement with an organization led by the Rev. Jesse Jackson to extend more economic opportunities to minorities. Although he had no business experience, Mr. Fullwood persuaded the company to grant him franchises and he opened two restaurants, one in Parkville and one on West Franklin Street, in 1984. He won the company's highest honor for franchisees during his first year in business.
At one point, he ran six KFC franchises, Mr. Sledge said, working 18-hour days and enlisting the help of his wife, son and daughter. He tried to provide jobs for black teenagers, he told The Sun in 1986. "I wanted a store in the inner city," he said. "That's where I came from, and the people who live there are the ones responsible for my success." He eventually sold all of the restaurants except for the one on West Franklin Street.
In 1988, Mr. Fullwood and his wife created the Fullwood Foundation to support charities, provide scholarships for worthy students and recognize outstanding residents.
"In all my years on the beat, I never arrested a man or woman who had a good education and a good job, and that told me something," Mr. Fullwood told The Sun in a 1989 interview. "The difference between me and the man in the penitentiary is that someone gave me a chance."
The foundation has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to nonprofit organizations and awarded scholarships to more than 1,000 students. Many of those students attended Mr. Fullwood's alma mater, Virginia Union University.
"He had a clear vision in his mind of what he wanted to do," said Sherman N. Miller, a syndicated columnist who interviewed Mr. Fullwood for one of his books. "I think his real strength was to give away what he had rather than hold on to what he had."
Emerson H. Burrell Sr. of Baltimore said that the life of his son, Emerson H. Burrell Jr., was changed when he received a scholarship from the Fullwood Foundation.
"I know it's taught my son the value of giving back to the community," he said, adding that his son is now employed by a nonprofit organization.
Over the years, the foundation's awards breakfast has grown to become one of the area's most notable fundraising events. Although Mr. Fullwood's health prevented him from attending Saturday's event, a statue of him, on loan from the Great Blacks in Wax Museum, presided over the guests, Mr. Sledge said.
Mr. Sledge said that he greeted the crowd using the words that Mr. Fullwood spoke each year at the beginning of the breakfast: "Good morning, all you chicken eaters."
Mr. Fullwood was a member of civic, charitable and educational organizations and received awards for excellence in business and community service.
Funeral arrangements were incomplete.
In addition to his wife and daughter, he is survived by a son, Harlow Fullwood III of Catonsville; a brother, Everett Fullwood of Baltimore; two sisters, Joan Johnson of Belcamp and Joyce Hatcher of Pikesville; and three grandchildren.