TheAssociated Presssaid country music legend Jimmy Dean, an entrepreneur also known for his sausage brand, died on Sunday. He was 81.

His wife, Donna Meade Dean, said her husband died suddenly at their Henrico County, Va., home of natural causes.

Born in 1928, Dean was raised in poverty in Plainview, Texas, and dropped out of high school after the ninth grade, theAP reported. He went on to a successful entertainment career in the 1950s and '60s that included the nationally televised "The Jimmy Dean Show."

In 1969, Dean went into the sausage business, starting the Jimmy Dean Meat Co. in his hometown. He sold the company to Sara Lee Corp. in 1984.

AP noted that Dean's family had butchered hogs, with the young Dean whacking them over the head with the blunt end of an ax. The Dean brothers -- Jimmy and Don -- ground the meat and their mother seasoned it. The Jimmy Dean Meat Co. opened with a plant in Plainview. After six months, the company was profitable.

"All of us at the Sara Lee Corporation are deeply saddened by the loss of such an iconic figure," said Daryl Gormley, vice president of 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."