The head of public relations at Chick-fil-A died Friday morning of an apparent heart attack, according to the company.
The employee, Donald A. Perry, was the company’s vice president of corporate public relations.
His death comes as Chick-fil-A finds itself embroiled in a public relations fiasco with the gay community and supporters of same-sex marriage protesting the company because of statements made by company president Dan Cathy.
Erica M. Martinez, a Chick-fil-A spokeswoman, confirmed the news Friday afternoon in a statement to The Daily Caller.
“We are saddened to report the news to you that our dear friend Don Perry, vice president of public relations, passed away suddenly this morning,” she said. “Don was a member of our Chick-fil-A family for nearly 29 years.”
Martinez added: “For many of you in the media, he was the spokesperson for Chick-fil-A. He was a well-respected and well-liked media executive in the Atlanta and University of Georgia communities, and we will all miss him.”
WBRL News 3 in Georgia reported the cause of the death to be a heart attack.
Perry joined Chick-fil-A in the 1980s.
“I came on board in 1983 to literally start the public relations function here, because the company was young, growing and emerging,” Perry told Georgia Magazine. “The company was trying to move beyond just a small, regional family chain to become a national brand.”
Perry is portrayed as protective of the company in a 2003 Fortune Small Business story. He is quoted questioning the motives of a reporter in a piece about the religious beliefs of the company’s founder. “What would you like to do? Are you going to continue on a religious kind of thing, or are you going to concentrate more on the Chick-fil-A business?”
He became an elder of his church in 1997, according to information posted on the website of Hillcrest Church of Christ. The church said Perry enjoyed “leading his church fellowship cell group, as well as working to help maintain harmony in the congregation.”
“One of the challenges sometimes is helping to reconcile differing views among members,” Perry said, according to the church, “but we work to keep unity of the faith.”