RICHMOND, Va. — Jimmy Dean, a country music legend and a meat industry entrepreneur known for his sausage brand, died on Sunday. He was 81, according to The Associated Press. Donna Meade Dean, his wife, said her husband died at their Henrico County, Va., home.

Mrs. Dean said her husband had some health problems, but he was functioning well and his death came as a surprise.

Mr. Dean was born in 1928, in Plainview, Texas. He dropped out of high school after the ninth grade. He went on to a successful entertainment career in the 1950s and '60s. Mr. Dean went into the sausage business in 1969 and started the Jimmy Dean Meat Co. in his hometown. He sold the company to Sara Lee Corp. in 1984. He worked as the company’s spokesman until 2003.

"All of us at the Sara Lee Corporation are deeply saddened by the loss of such an iconic figure,” said Daryl Gormley, vice president breakfast and snacking, Sara Lee North America Retail. “His legacy extends far beyond his development of the Jimmy Dean sausage brand and he will be missed by millions. We extend our deepest sympathies to Mr. Dean's family and loved ones and we will keep them in our thoughts during this difficult time."