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Posted at 11:13 AM ET, 01/ 7/2011

The Chicken King of Arkansas

By T. Rees Shapiro

In today's paper, I wrote about Don Tyson, an aw-shucks Arkansas farmhand who turned his father's single-truck poultry-hauling business into a worldwide protein empire: Tyson Foods Inc.

For his poultry supremacy, Mr. Tyson earned the title of America's "Chicken King."

During my research, I came across some rather interesting tidbits about Mr. Tyson that didn't quite fit into print.

Besides overseeing the world's largest meat producing company, Mr. Tyson had quite an active social life.

Rockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins once said: "I used to have to find an iron lung after a night out partying with Don. But he'd just shower, shave and go to work."

A number of different newspaper profiles claimed Mr. Tyson to be a suave ladies' man.

In a profile about Arkansas politics, The Washington Post retold one infamous rumor about Mr. Tyson that may or may not have been true -- but made for a good story either way.

Allegedly, Mr. Tyson's wife (he was married multiple times, The Post story did not say which) was driving around town and saw her husband's brand new Cadillac convertible parked in front of another woman's house.

Seeking vengeance, Mr. Tyson's bride called up a construction company and had a truckload of wet cement poured into the drop-top's seats.

The Post reporter apparently attempted to confirm the story with a Tyson Foods Inc. spokesman, who said he'd heard the tall-tale a number of times but did not know if it was true. (Nor was the spokesman brave enough, it seems, to actually ask his boss about it.)

Nonetheless, if one consults Peter E. Meltzer's 2010 book, The Thinker's Thesaurus, a reference to Mr. Tyson is listed under the entry for "adulterous."

By T. Rees Shapiro  | January 7, 2011; 11:13 AM ET
Categories:  T. Rees Shapiro  | Tags:  Chicken King, Don Tyson, Tyson Foods Inc.  
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