ATLANTA — Thomas Francis Forkner Sr., who jumped from real estate to the restaurant business when he co-founded Waffle House in the 1950s, has died weeks after the death of his business partner who helped him create the famous Southern diner chain.

Waffle House said in a statement that Forkner died Wednesday at age 98. Forkner was still selling real estate in 1955 when he opened the Atlanta area’s first 24-hour Waffle House with his neighbor, Joe Rogers Sr. They opened a second location two years later, then kept building the business over the next two decades.

Rogers died March 3. He was 97.

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Under Forkner and Rogers, the Waffle House chain grew to 400 restaurants by the end of the 1970s. The Atlanta-based company now has more than 1,500 locations.

— AP