No. 1283



It is often said that behind every successful man is a terrific woman, and I personally know this is true. Over the years I have had a great deal of respect and admiration for the late Truett Cathy, founder of the Chic-fil-A restaurant chain. However, there is a wonderful story behind his success involving his wife that has not been told before: until now.
Before sharing this true story, I need to give you a little background information. Truett and his brother Ben opened the Dwarf Grill in 1946, just outside of Atlanta, and later changed the name to the Dwarf House. Then tragedy struck in 1949, as Ben and another brother Horace were killed in a plane crash near Dalton, Georgia.
This left Truett alone to continue the business, but fate smiled on him as he had begun to spend time with a wonderful young woman by the name of Jeannette McNeill, who also helped him in the restaurant. That same year, 1949, Truett and Jeannette would marry and later have three children: Dan, Don and Trudy. In 1967 the first Chic-fil-A restaurant would open in Atlanta’s Greenbrier Shopping Center. They began to add new locations, to where today it is the most successful restaurant chain in our country. Truett was a hard worker with a creative mind, and in the early days he hit on a formula of taking a pressure-cooked chicken breast and putting it on a bun with some garnishments to form the Chicken Sandwich. Their motto is, ‘We didn’t invent the chicken, just the chicken sandwich.”
The untold story I mentioned earlier is chronicled in a terrific new book written by their daughter Trudy titled, “A Quiet Strength: The Life and Legacy of Jeannette M. Cathy.” It was released as a hardcover on March 10, 2020. Trudy Cathy White is a great success in her own right, beginning all the way back to when she was just 19 years of age and was given the responsibility of running a Chic-fil-A Restaurant in Birmingham, Alabama. Today she is a beloved speaker, writer, and grandmother who has devoted her life to serving others.
In her new book she tells the story of her mother, the real heart and soul of the Cathy family. This heartwarming memoir presents Trudy’s first-hand look at her mother’s amazing life. This included growing up during the Great Depression with a struggling single mother, being crowned the best dancer in Atlanta at age 6, singing in church revivals all across Georgia at age 8, and breaking tradition by attending both college and seminary as a woman in the 1940s. Plus, she helped found the most influential and fastest growing restaurant chain in the country. Trudy also shares her mother’s often unbelievable disadvantages raising three children on the Cathy farm — from beekeeping fiascos to regularly chasing a pony, a parrot, and a monkey around her living room.
While Truett was building Chic-fil-A, Jeannette was nurturing a family, and beginning with their faith they built an empire based on Biblical principles. She knew so much about Biblical principles that she talked with Truett about them, as she wanted to make sure that was a part of what the business was like. Trudy said her siblings were never sheltered from the challenges of running a business. She recalled how difficult conversations often came up, and it was natural for our family to get up from the table, go into the den and mom would open her Bible.
Trudy went on to say the best decision they ever made was to keep their restaurants closed on Sunday. This philosophy has worked out pretty well. Today they do more business in our community in six days than any of the other restaurants do in seven.
(Editor’s Note: Jim Davidson is a nationally syndicated columnist and motivational speaker. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034)