"A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold."
-- Key Scripture for Truett Cathy
ATLANTA (BP) -- S. Truett Cathy, founder of the Chick-fil-A restaurant chain famous for closing on Sundays, died today (Sept. 8). He was 93.
"I was not so committed to financial success that I was willing to abandon my principles and priorities," Cathy once said. "Our decision to close on Sunday was our way of honoring God and of directing our attention to things that mattered more than our business."
Cathy, one of Southern Baptists' most respected businessmen, was surrounded by loved ones when died at his home at 1:35 a.m., according to an announcement from the Atlanta-based company.
Mel Blackaby, senior pastor of the Atlanta-area First Baptist Church in Jonesboro, described Cathy as "perhaps the most gracious Christian man I have ever known, and it was a privilege to be his pastor."
"Having taught eighth-grade boys Sunday School class for 52 years, he chose to invest his life in the next generation of leaders," Blackaby said in a statement to The Christian Index of the Georgia Baptist Convention. "Everywhere I go, I meet leaders with a smile on their face who say, 'I am one of Truett's boys!'
"His winsome personality left a positive impression on every person he met, and his deep love for the Lord was undeniable," Blackaby said. "In the marketplace he may be known as 'the inventor of the chicken sandwich,' but his success in business simply gave him the opportunity to serve people and point them to Christ. Truett's life is the story of a man and his God. He leaves an example for all to follow."
More than 1,800 Chick-fil-A restaurants operate in 40 states and Washington, D.C., recording $5 billion in annual sales in 2013 and 47 consecutive years of annual sales increases. Chick-fil-A was listed among the "Top 20 Brands with the Most Loyal Fans on Facebook" in a report by market research firm LoudDoor released in August.
Cathy, a native of Eatonton, Ga., who moved to Atlanta with his family at age 4, has received more than 100 national, state and community awards since 1984 and 18 honorary doctorates since 1991.
His key Bible verse was Proverbs 22:1: "A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold."
After serving in the Army from 1939-45, Cathy and his brother Ben opened their first restaurant in 1946, a venue so small they named it The Dwarf Grill (later, The Dwarf House). A second suburban Atlanta location opened in 1951 but burned down in 1960. In reopening and repurposing the restaurant, Cathy became one of the pioneers of fast-food restaurants in greater Atlanta.
In 1967 Cathy continued to chart new ground, opening his first Chick-fil-A venue in a mall followed in 1986 by the first free-standing Chick-fil-A.
Ethical and biblical principles were central to each of Cathy's steps forward.
"We live in a changing world, but we need to be reminded that the important things have not changed," he said. "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." Read More