NATHAN HARRISON (1823-1920) was born a slave in Kentucky, eventually becoming California's first known black business proprietor. Around 1848, he traveled to California to mine with his master, Lysander Utt. In 1850, when California became part of the Union as a free state, Utt could no longer legally keep a slave. Now a free man, Harrison moved to Temecula and raised sheep near the Agua Tibia ranch. As he became more accomplished, he took to herding sheep and cattle for ranchers in Doane Valley near Palomar Mountain. He also worked as a cook and baker until deciding to become a homesteader. Building a cabin on the mountain near a freshwater spring, he opened a way station for travelers along the winding wagon road connecting Pauma and Doane Valley. Besides offering trade goods, he later provided water to early motorists whose radiators overheated from the climb, as well as selling fruit from his own garden and cooking meals for passing patrons. Becoming ill in 1920, he traveled to San Diego to see a doctor and died of pulmonary congestion at age 97. In 1955, at the site of his cabin, a U.S. Historical Monument bronze plaque was mounted, the first one ever dedicated to a black man. The County of San Diego named the east Palomar Mountain byway "Nathan Harrison Grade Road." He's buried at Mount Hope Cemetery on Market Street, with his gravestone reading "Born a slave, died a pioneer."
ELISHA BABCOCK, JR. (1848-1922), born in Chicago, was a civil engineer responsible for the construction of the Hotel del Coronado. He moved to San Diego in 1884 on doctor's orders, hoping the climate would stave off symptoms of tuberculosis, along with wife Isabella and a friend named Hampton L. Story, whose family manufactured pianos. Well-off from railroad investments, Babcock and Story bought 4,185.46 acres of land on Coronado and North Island for $110,000, hoping to attract residential buyers and raise money to build a world-class hotel. Six thousand people showed up for the pair's first land auction on November 13, 1886, with buyers paying an average of $1,000 per lot. Every deed included a stipulation that "no liquors shall ever be sold or drunk on the premises," meaning anyone who wanted to get drunk legally had to do so at the (still unbuilt) hotel. Land sales eventually earned the duo $2.2 million dollars, enabling them to break ground on the hotel in March 1887. Thomas Edison came in to advise on installing a power generator, and 399 bedrooms were available by opening day, February 19, 1888. Soon, John D. Spreckels bought out Story and then paid Babcock more than one million dollars for his share of the hotel, retaining him as hotel manager. Babcock later built the city's first electric-lighting network in 1904 and developed over 4000 acres of San Diego property. However, he ended up nearly bankrupt after a flood ruined many of his businesses in 1916 and his enterprise, the Western Salt Company, failed. Babcock is buried with his wife at Mount Hope Cemetery on Market Street (division 3, section 6).
RAY KROC (1902-1984) became a partner in the McDonald's fast-food chain (then consisting of eight southern California locales) with its founders Richard and Maurice McDonald in 1954. Operating on their behalf, Kroc sold restaurant franchises around the country, keeping 1.9% of each store's gross receipts for himself. In 1961, the McDonald brothers sold their interest in the company to Kroc for $2.7 million dollars, though they retained ownership of the chain's very first outlet in San Bernadino at 1398 North E Street (14th and E). In his autobiography Grinding It Out, Kroc later wrote: "What a goddamn rotten trick...I opened a McDonald's across the street from that store, which they had renamed The Big M, and it ran them out of business." In actuality, Kroc's store was a block north, but the Big M did close two years later. He stepped down as McDonalds' CEO in 1974 (instead becoming Chairman and then, in 1977, Senior Chairman) and used his riches to purchase the San Diego Padres baseball team the same year. The ruthless businessman was once quoted, "If my competitor were drowning, I'd stick a hose in his mouth and turn on the water." He died of heart failure and is buried with his wife Joan at El Camino Memorial Park in La Jolla (Sunset Couches area, section D, bay 2).
JOAN B. KROC (1928-2003), billionaire widow of Ray Kroc, inherited the Padres from her husband in 1984 (the team made it to its first World Series that season, though they lost). She sold the team in 1990 for $75 million dollars. Born Joan Beverly Mansfield, she married Ray Kroc (her second husband) in 1969. An avid humanitarian and proponent of world peace and nuclear disarmament, her first major philanthropic endeavor in 1976 was funding Operation Cork, a La Jolla based alcoholism educational program. In 1985, she gave $3.3 million dollars to the San Diego Zoo, and she later donated $25 million dollars to found the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice at UCSD (opened 1991). One of her biggest area contributions, late in life, was $87 million dollars given to the Salvation Army to develop the Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center for arts and recreation in east San Diego. The center opened in 2002 and includes an indoor ice skating rink, three swimming pools, a library, and a $15 million dollar theater. She died of cancer at her home in Rancho Santa Fe, leaving in her will over $200 million dollars to National Public Radio, including $5 million for local NPR station KPBS. She's buried with her husband at El Camino Memorial Park in La Jolla.
DICK (RICHARD) W. SIMMONS (1913-2003), born in Minnesota, was an actor whose career spanned forty years. Between 1937 and 1977, he performed in over 60 films and nearly two dozen TV shows. After moving to L.A. in the 1930s, he was signed to MGM Studios as a contract player and appeared in movies like A Million To One (1937), Lady In The Lake (1947), and The Three Musketeers (1948), though he left Hollywood for the military to serve in World War II. In later years, he took roles in flicks like Rear Window (1954), Rat Pack films Sergeants Three (1962) and Robin and the Seven Hoods (1964), and Lassie's Great Adventure (1965). He's best known as Sergeant Frank Preston on the half-hour syndicated TV series Sgt. Preston Of The Yukon (1955-1958), playing a Canadian Mountie who caught criminals with the aid of his Husky dog Yukon King and his horse Rex. He ended each episode by hugging his dog and saying, "Well, King, it looks like this case is closed." Later TV appearances included roles on Leave It To Beaver, I Spy, Brady Bunch and Dragnet 1967. Simmons died of Alzheimer's disease and is buried at Eternal Hills Memorial Park in Oceanside (Sanctuary Of Hope, niche 40, plot D).