30. Chick-fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy, who had a seasonal home in NSB, dies in 2014 at age 93

Top 100 Local Stories of 2014 in Central Florida / Headline Surfer®
S. Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A, who died in 2014, had a seasonal home in New Smyrna Beach, Fla / Headline Surfer®     Cows were the slogan in the Chick-fil-A commercials encouraing people to eat chicken instead / Headline Surfer®Photos for Headline Surfer® /
S Truett Cathy is shown in a vintage photo and in the inset is the marketing for his Chick-fil-A fast food franchise.

NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. -- S. Truett Cathy, a billionaiure several times over who saw himself asa simple man, would often say, "I cook chicken for a living.”

The founder of Chick-fil-A, who owned a seasonal home in New Smyrna Beach outside of the gated Sugar Mill golf course community, died Sept. 8, 2014, at his home in Clayton County, Ga., a Chick-fil-A spokesman confirmed. He was 93.

A conservative Christian who roperated his fast-food franchise on his religious principles, Cathy was seen as both a symbol of faith and of hate, because of his opposition to same-sex marraiages and closig his restaurants on Sundays in observance of the Sabbath.

The elder Cathy's son, Dan Cathy, the president of Chick-fil-A — defended his father's stances as they related to same-sex marriages, seen by others as intolerent and out of touch in todday's world, saying, “As it relates to society in general, I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.’ ”

The elder Cathy's son, Dan Cathy, the president of Chick-fil-A — defended his father's stances as they related to same-sex marriages, seen by others as intolerent and out of touch in todday's world, saying, “As it relates to society in general, I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.’ ”

Even former Ptresident Jimmy Carter, came out in defense of the elder Cathy, after his death, saying in part, “In every facet of his life, Truett Cathy has exemplified the finest aspects of his Christian faith. By his example, he has been a blessing to countless people.”

Like Robert Woodruff, who took over Coca-Cola in the 1920s, and Sam Walton, who began the Walmart chain with a small store in Bentonville, Ark., in 1950, Cathy was one of a handful of Southern entrepreneurs who in one lifetime, took small, hometown companies to a global level, the New York Times noted in writing of his passing.

Here is a synopsis of Truett's background as summarized in the New York Times:

Samuel Truett Cathy, one of seven children, was born on March 14, 1921, in Eatonton, Ga., the hometown as well of the author Alice Walker and Joel Chandler Harris, who wrote the Uncle Remus stories. By 8, Truett, as he was called, was selling bottles of Coca-Cola in his front yard. Six years later, the Depression drove his parents to move the family to a public-housing project, the nation’s first, in downtown Atlanta.
A poor student, Mr. Cathy never went to college, but he developed a sharp business acumen, which was supplemented by a strong work ethic he had learned from his parents. He often said the only time he ever saw his mother with her eyes closed was when she was in her coffin. After he returned from the Army in World War II, he and his brother Ben opened a diner in Hapeville, Ga., just south of Atlanta, in 1946.
Many of his customers worked at a nearby Ford plant. The squat shape of the building inspired the name: the Dwarf Grill, later renamed to Dwarf House.
Chicken became a focus when Mr. Cathy started acquiring chicken breasts that had been rejected by Delta Air Lines, because they were either too large or too small for the airline’s food trays. Mr. Cathy began experimenting, frying breaded chicken in a cast-iron pan with a lid, the way his mother used to.
He gave his sandwich its unusual name so that a nation just falling in love with fast-food hamburgers might better understand his product: Chick-fil-A was meant to suggest a chicken steak.
As malls came to the South, Mr. Cathy opened a Chick-fil-A at the Greenbriar Mall in Atlanta. It was a pioneering effort to put fast food in shopping centers. By 2013, the privately held Chick-fil-A had more than 1,800 restaurants and sales of more than $5 billion.
Mr. Cathy instructed his heirs, who run the company, that they may sell it but must never take it public, because such a move could curtail the immense amount of charitable giving the company engages in.
Mr. Cathy is survived by his wife of 65 years, Jeannette; three children, Dan Cathy, Don Cathy and Trudy Cathy White; 18 grandchildren; and 19 great-grandchildren.

The death of S. Truett Cathy comes in at No. 30 in the HeadlineSurfer.com countdown of the top 100 stories of 2014.


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Henry Frederick is publisher of Headline Surfer®, the award-winning 24/7 internet news outlet covering the Daytona Beach-Sanford-Orlando metro area via HeadlineSurfer.com since 2008. A longtime cops & courts reporter focused on breaking news & investigative reporting, Frederick is among the Sunshine State's most prolific daily news reporters, having amassed close to a hundred award-winning byline stories nearly evenly split in print and digital platforms. Frederick earned his Master of Arts in New Media Journalism with academic honors from Full Sail University in Winter Park in February 2019. He was a metro reporter with the Daytona Beach News-Journal for nearly a decade and then served as a city editor for the Taunton Daily Gazette in Taunton, Mass, while maintaining a residence in Central Florida. Prior to moving to Florida, Frederick was a metro reporter for the Rockland Journal-News in West Nyack, NY, for seven years. Headline Surfer was named the Sunshine State's top internet news site by the Florida Press Club in 2018.