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Church elder, Chick-fil-A public relations leader Donald Perry dies at 60

Donald A. Perry, a church elder in the Atlanta metro and vice president of public relations for Chick-fil-A, died July 27 of a heart attack. He was 60.
“Don was a member of our Chick-fil-A family for nearly 29 years,” representatives of the Georgia-based restaurant chain said in a news release. “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.”
Perry’s family includes the 900-member Hillcrest Church of Christ in Decatur, Ga., where he and his wife, Marilyn, have worshiped for 19 years. For 15 of those years Donald Perry served as a church elder.
“Our church is certainly devastated by this loss,” Richard Barclay, the church’s senior minister, told The Christian Chronicle.
Donald Perry shepherded the congregation’s marriage ministry, ladies’ ministry and adult education program. He also was active an integral part of the church’s current building project, designed to expand the congregation’s facilities as it grows.
“He was a visionary man, a dedicated man … a kingdom man,” Barclay said.
Perry’s death received national media attention due to the public relations firestorm surrounding comments by Chick-fil-A’s president, Dan Cathy.
Cathy, the son of the company’s founder, S. Truett Cathy, told a Baptist newspaper that he backs “the biblical definition of a family.” Gay rights groups called for a boycott of Chick-fil-A. Politicians in cities including Boston and Chicago told the chain it is not welcome there.
About a week before his death, Perry issued a statement that the restaurant chain intended “to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
As the Hillcrest church makes plans for Donald Perry’s memorial service, Barclay said he’s struggling with the decision of whether or not to allow media to attend.
“He didn’t bring his work over here,” Barclay said of the church elder. In his job, “he didn’t speak for the kingdom. He spoke for Chick-fil-A.”
A native of Claysville in south Georgia, Donald Perry was baptized in 1971 in Callaway Gardens, Ga.
He was one of the first African-Americans to study at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism, where he earned a degree in public relations, according to the Hillcrest church’s website. His wife is a graduate of the university’s business school. The couple attended the Simpson Street Church of Christ in Atlanta before moving to Hillcrest.
During a church conference seven years ago, Donald Perry shared a round of golf with Barclay, then a preacher in the Houston area. The church elder gave the minister his card and told him to come visit him in Atlanta, where he promised to treat Barclay to a chicken sandwich.
“Don was the one who was instrumental in coaxing me out of Texas,” Barclay said.
The suddenness of the elder’s death shocked the congregation, the minister added. In February the church lost another of its leaders, deacon Bob Smith, after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Members still mourn that loss.
“With Bob, we had months,” Barclay said. “With Don, we had minutes.”
During Sunday worship, two days after Donald Perry’s death, Barclay preached from the Old Testament book of Joshua, which tells the story of the Israelites after the loss of Moses.
“Moses was called home” before he could enter the Promised Land, Barclay said, “but God was the one who made the promise. And God will keep his promise.”

  • Feedback
    Because we care, our warmest thoughts, go out to you today with more concern and sympathy than we could every say…Because we care, we’re saddened by the grief you’re feeling now, and want so much to comfort you and ease your heart somehow… We hope that the love of friends will help to see you through, and that time will bring you brighter day-because we care for you.
    Much love,
    Ray & Urenna’ Crawford
    Ray & Urenna’ Crawford
    Church of Christ
    Conyers, , Georgia
    August, 3 2012

    Don Perry will always be remembered for his love for his Church, family and work. Thank you Marilyn and family for sharing him with us. May you always have the peace and love that only God gives.
    James Webb
    Hillcrest Church of Christ
    Alpharetta, Ga
    August, 2 2012

    August, 2 2012

    When having our Chic Fil A sandwich Aug 1, after finally getting through the line, what a sense of bonding and fellowship Ellen and I saw with all who were there — singing, greeting, handshakes … made me long to have this same sense of one-ness and strength in all things as we saw on God’s law of marriage. This I pray and work for.
    Alvin Jennings
    College Hill, Ft Worth, TX
    Hurst, Texas
    August, 2 2012

    To Marilyn and the rest of the family, Bro. Perry will be dearly missed! I’m sorry I could not make it back for the service. He was a dear man with sympathetic, caring and giving heart. When you hurt, he hurt right along with you. A very good Christian man. He was an elder who sincerely watched over his flock. I love you all and will continue to pray for the family.
    Renda Gray
    Shady Acres Church of Christ and former member of Hillcrest Chu
    Houston, Texas
    August, 1 2012

    May God be with the family and friends of Elder Perry in their time of bereavement. God Bless
    Bruce Lipscomb
    Lem Turner Circle Church of Christ
    Jacksonville, FL
    August, 1 2012

    I extend my sympathies to the family of our brother in christ. I share his desire to go with what GOD says.
    Cecelia Rawls
    Chrenshaw Churh of Christ, Los Angeles, CA
    Los Angeles, CA
    August, 1 2012

    I am proud that our brother stood up for what we believe. I agree 100% with his comments! My condolences to his family.
    Janice Hall
    Crenshaw Church of Christ, Los Angeles CA.
    West Covina , CA
    August, 1 2012

    I did not know Mr. Perry personally but he was a brother in Christ regardless of the miles between us.May God be with this family.
    centreville church of christ
    Brent, al
    August, 1 2012

    My thoughts and prayers are with the family of Don Perry. May God give them the comfort that only He can give. Regarding the stand that Dan Cathey has taken, my wife and I support him completely and will eat there this afternoon to show that support. Thanks, Dan. Please continue this faithfulness to the Scriptures.
    James Haney
    Salado Church of Christ
    Salado, Texas
    August, 1 2012

    We are grieved over this loss, praying God comforts and blesses through this man’s legacy. God be glorified!
    Susie McCreary
    Calvary Chapel
    Newark, DE
    August, 1 2012

    Donald Perry was a living example of a Christian man,and a pillar in our congregation. We have suffered a great loss and he will truly be missed.
    Janice Little
    Hillcrest Church of Christ
    Covington, Georgia
    August, 1 2012

    To all family and friends of Don,may our good Lord of ALL comfort be with you at this time.I have learnt something from this great man,it’s never a wrong time to stand up for God’s truth!!!
    Janet Ciru Akolo
    Nairobi, Nairobi
    August, 1 2012

    Here is the nutritional info for Chik-fil-A’s menu:
    Even the most God-fearing among us cannot expect to live past 60 on this earth. Even the breakfast is double the daily sodium and 5x the cholesterol a human can safely consume in a day!
    Mr. Perry would surely agree that while Chick-fil-A may be abiding very admirably to certain religious values, there is also a lesson … about what we choose to put into the Lord’s body before we return it to Him.
    John Dilly
    First Bap
    Decutour, IL
    August, 1 2012

    To the family of Mr. Donald Perry My the peace of God be with in the time of your loss. Mr. Perry will be greatly missed. Our prayers are with you. We don’t have a Chick-fil-a in my hometown, but when I’m in a town where there is one, I eat there. It’s good!
    Joanne Williams
    Central Bible Fellowship Church
    Cordele, Ga
    July, 31 2012

    I don’t normally eat fast food, but I guarantee I will do all I can to give Chick-fil-A business whenever I am near. Takes guts and conviction for businessmen to take a stand.
    don Selvidge
    Northside Church of Christ
    Mattoon, Il.
    July, 31 2012

    To the family of Bro. Donald Perry, may peace and Love capture your hearts at this time. To the Church Family, Bro. Perry will be sorely missed! Very good man and strong Christian. Always there for you when needed! I will miss you always! Love, Cynthia
    Cynthia Gowdy
    Hillcrest Church of Christ
    Decatur, GA
    July, 31 2012

    Don Perry was a great man, a great brother in Christ and a very good friend. He was personable, he was kind and he made himself accessible. He always gave 100%. I will miss him!
    Sherley Aguayo
    Sherley Aguayo
    Hillcrest Church of Christ
    Stone Mountain, Georgia
    July, 31 2012

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