S. Truett Cathy, founder of the massively popular (and sometimes maligned) fast-food chain Chick-fil-A, passed away early on Monday at 93. From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Cathy, who died at home surrounded by loved ones, was known as much for his Christian principles — Chick-fil-A’s are closed on Sundays — as he was for his business acumen. He lived long enough to see his company rise from a local grill to the No. 1 U.S. chicken chain this year.
Under Cathy, Chick-fil-A became synonymous with not only business success (46 consecutive years of growth), but also its infamous policy of being closed on Sunday. In 2012, Cathy inadvertently occupied the center of a national firestorm when comments he made against same-sex marriage were widely reported just as ballot initiatives to legalize gay marriage were being introduced in four states.
In a statement on Monday, the company from which Cathy stepped down as CEO last year, quickly quelled any conjecture that Chick-fil-A's long-held "Closed on Sunday" policy would change with Cathy's passing:
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. Chick-fil-A will remain privately held and closed on Sundays.
Named for a famous evangelist, Cathy grew up in the shadow of the Great Depression, struggled in high school, and didn't go to college. As he said in 2007:
I've experienced poverty and plenty and there's a lesson to be learned when you're brought up in poverty. I had to create some good work habits and attitude."
He opened his first diner in 1946, just after returning from WWII service, and in 1967, Cathy debuted the first of what would grow to become 1800 Chick-fil-A restaurants.