News of Chick-fil-A founder and chairman emeritus S. Truett Cathy's death has prompted an outpouring of pastors, ministry leaders and politicians praising his faith and business ethic.
Media notices from the family indicate that Cathy, 93, died early Monday morning in his home surrounded by loved ones.
Son and Chick-fil-A CEO Dan T. Cathy shared the news on Twitter writing, "We will miss him dearly. Please remember our family in prayer this week."
Remembrances poured in as the news quickly spread throughout both Twitter and Facebook. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed tweeted, "Our city is saddened by the loss of Truett Cathy, founder of GA's own @ChickfilA. His legacy will live on through his family and good works."
Cathy, who grew up in Atlanta, built up the chicken sandwich chain from a small diner in Hapeville, Georgia. Chick-fil-A has since grown to become one of the nation's largest family-owned companies, exceeding $5 billion in annual sales in 2013.
Cathy's admirers celebrated his business acumen. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, tweeted, "Sad to hear of Truett Cathy's passing. He was a great American entrepreneur who treated his employees well."
Megachurch Pastor Perry Noble described the-late restaurateur on Twitter as "a great man who built a great business, has a great family and kept your eyes on Jesus, you will be missed!"
Financial guru Dave Ramsey posted on his Twitter account, "RIP My friend Truett Cathy. A godly man who loved his family well and showed us faith in the market place."
Billy Graham Evangelistic Association CEO Franklin Graham posted on Facebook, "I knew Mr. Cathy for many years and had the privilege of riding motorcycles with him. He was a fine Christian gentleman that carried his Christian business principles throughout life. His restaurants were never open on Sunday out of respect for the Lord's day. He was kind and extremely generous and used the profits from his business to help others. He will be greatly missed."
Cathy, a devout Southern Baptist who taught Sunday school for 50 years, enacted a company-wide "Closed-on-Sunday" policy that allowed employees of all its locations to have a day for family, worship, fellowship and rest.
The policy is but one example of the founder's faith. As his business began to take off, Cathy reached out into the Atlanta community through his nonprofit, the WinShape Foundation. The foundation, formed in 1984, set its sights on shaping winners by "helping young people succeed in life through scholarship and other youth-support programs." Those programs eventually grew into national platforms for leadership training, long-term foster care housing, and marital counseling.
The Cathys' conservative stance on marriage has become the subject of much criticism over the years. Dan Cathy, in a 2012 interview on "The Ken Coleman Show," said of the company: "We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that."
Though Dan Cathy later pledged the company would not champion any political agendas surrounding marriage or family, the Cathys stood firm on its Christian values.
Former Congresswoman and presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, R-Minnesota, posted on Facebook, "He was a remarkable man whose life was purposely lived in a manner that pointed toward the cross. Thank you for a lifetime of honorably standing strong for American free enterprise, job creation, faith in Christ, and religious liberties. My thoughts are with his loved ones today."
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler tweeted, "Thankful to God for the generous life and courageous Christian example of S. Truett Cathy, founder of @ChickFilA — a life well lived."
The Cathy family will host two public viewings at First Baptist Church in Jonesboro, Georgia. The first viewing is scheduled at 4 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday. The second will be noon to 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday. A public funeral will be held after the second viewing. A private burial service will be held on Thursday.