In a message sent to employees this morning, officials at Chick-fil-A restaurants announced that its founder and chairman emeritus, S. Truett Cathy, died at 1:35 a.m. Monday, September 8 at the age of 93. He died peacefully at home, surrounded by loved ones. He is survived by his wife of 65 years Jeannette McNeil Cathy, two sons, a daughter, 19 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.
Born March 14, 1921, in Eatonton, Georgia, Cathy relied on a keen business sense, a strong work ethic and a deep Christian faith to build a tiny diner in the Atlanta suburb of Hapeville, Georgia. He developed it into the Chick-fil-A chain in 1967 which now has more than 1,800 restaurants operating in 40 states and Washington, D.C. Cathy’s oldest son, Dan, became president of Chick-fil-A in 2001 and chairman and chief executive officer in 2013, while Truett Cathy continued in the role of chairman emeritus until his death.
Cathy was a devout Southern Baptist who taught Sunday school to 13-year-old boys for more than 50 years. As an extension of the founder’s faith and the clearest example of incorporating biblical principles into the workplace, all Chick-fil-A restaurants—without exception—operate with a “Closed-on-Sunday” policy. Rare within the food service industry, this policy allows employees a day for family, worship, fellowship or rest and also underscores Cathy’s desire to put principles and people ahead of profits. The company has announced that Chick-fil-A will remain privately held and closed on Sundays.
Cathy was often quoted as saying: “I’d like to be remembered as one who kept my priorities in the right order. We live in a changing world, but we need to be reminded that the important things have not changed. I have always encouraged my restaurant operators and team members to give back to the local community. We should be about more than just selling chicken, we should be a part of our customers’ lives and the communities in which we serve.”
Cathy received countless business, service and philanthropic awards over the years, including most recently becoming a Georgia Trustees Inductee (2013). Cathy also founded programs to provide long-term care for foster children, marriage enrichment opportunities and scholarships for his employees. He authored or co-authored six books.