Chick-fil-A's VP of PR, Don Perry, died suddenly this morning, the company said in a statement.
The company's Atlanta-based PR agency, Jackson Spaulding, sent Ad Age the following statement on behalf of the company: "Don was a member of our Chick-fil-A family for nearly 29 years. 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. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family."
The news comes amid the company's most high-profile PR crisis to date, which was sparked by an interview in which President Dan Cathy reiterated the chain's support of what he considers traditional marriage. "Guilty as charged," Mr. Cathy had said during the interview with the Baptist Press. "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."
Mr. Perry joined Chick-fil-A in 1983 as manager of corporate PR and the chain's first PR professional. He was responsible for developing and overseeing external communications and publicity programs, including executive outreach, crisis communications, sports sponsorships, national promotions, local marketing efforts and publicity support.
Prior to joining Chick-fil-A, Mr. Perry served as publicity supervisor and office manager in various divisions at General Electric, where he started his career.
Throughout his career, he was active with the Public Relations Society of America, including serving on its national minority-affairs committee. Mr. Perry was Georgia chapter president for the organization in 1993, and was later inducted into the chapter's "Order of the Phoenix" and Georgia PRSA Hall of Fame in December 1999. He also chaired Emory University's public-affairs advisory council and Berry College's public-relations advisory committee.