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NEW YORK Frank Perdue, who became a national icon and marketing celebrity with his down-home "acting" style, died Thursday after a brief illness. He was 84.

His catch phrase even found its way into common vernacular: "It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken."

At the time of his death, Perdue was chairman of the executive committee of the board of directors of Perdue Farms, based in Salisbury, Md.

His folksy TV commercial persona helped boost sales from $56 million in 1970 to more than $1.2 billion by 1991, per the company. He is credited with being the first to advertise chickens by brand.

Perdue turned the company over to his son, Jim, in 1991.

—Brandweek staff report