S. Truett Cathy, founder of the Chick-fil-A restaurant chain known for delicious chicken sandwiches and closing on Sundays, died Monday. He was 93.
The restaurant’s spokesman Mark Baldwin told The Associated Press he died at home, surrounded by members of his family.
Cathy opened his first diner in an Atlanta suburb in 1946, which is now the “Dwarf House.” By the next year, it became Chick-fil-A, and later made him a billionaire. He is credited with inventing the boneless fried chicken sandwich in 1963, and that famous sandwich landed him 1,800 restaurants in 39 states with $5 billion in sales.
He was as much known for his robust business skills as he was for his conservative Christian views.
Cathy, named after a preacher, garnered attention by closing his restaurant on Sundays, allowing his employees a day of rest. Even Monday mornings at the corporate offices began with an optional devotional. He told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that customers appreciated businesses being consistent with their faith.
“I see no conflict whatsoever between Christianity and good business practices,” Cathy said.
“People say you can’t mix business with religion. I say there’s no other way.”
In 2012, Cathy’s son Dan, who is chairman and president of Chick-fil-A, told the Baptist Press news service that the family supported the “biblical definition of a family.” Though the statement received some backlash — gay rights groups called for boycotts and the Chicago mayor said Chick-fil-A was not welcome there — the controversy later died down.
The Chick-fil-A spokesman said the public will be able to pay its respects at his public service, though plans have not been finalized. Cathy is survived by his wife of 65 years, Jeannette McNeil Cathy; sons Dan and Don “Bubba”; daughter Trudy; 19 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.