S. Truett Cathy, the billionaire founder of the privately held Chick-fil-A restaurant chain that famously closes on Sundays but also drew unwanted attention on gay marriage in recent years because of his family’s conservative views, died early Monday, a company spokesman said. He was 93.
Cathy died at home surrounded by members of his family. The company said in a statement that preliminary plans are for a public funeral service at 2 p.m. Wednesday at First Baptist Jonesboro in Jonesboro, Georgia.
Under the religiously conservative founder, the chain gained prominence for its Bible Belt observance of Sunday – none of its hundreds of restaurants are open on that day, to allow employees a day of rest. Its executives often said the chain made as much money in six days as its competitors do in seven.
Those religious views helped win Cathy and his family loyal following from conservative customers, but also invited protests when Cathy’s son denounced gay marriage.
Cathy’s son, Dan, who is currently chairman and president of the chain, had told the Baptist Press in 2012 that the company was “guilty as charged” for backing “the biblical definition of a family.” Gay rights groups and others called for boycotts and kiss-ins at Cathy’s restaurants. The Jim Henson Co. pulled its Muppet toys from kids’ meals, while politicians in Boston and Chicago told the chain it is not welcome there.