April 13, 2020

The “Unseen” Hero Behind Chick-fil-A’s Success: Jeannette M. Cathy

by Guest Author

Trudy Cathy White Shares the Story of Her Mother, Jeannette Cathy

Who is Jeannette Cathy?

Much has been written about (and by) my dad, Truett Cathy, after he started one of the nation’s leading fast-food restaurants, Chick-fil-A. But the “unseen” hero behind Chick-fil-A’s success is due in part to my mother, Jeannette M. Cathy.

A Christ-Follower

Everything that is seen is the result of the unseen.

Raised during the Great Depression by a single-mom after her father left when she was a baby, my mother’s childhood was far from ideal. However, she would tell you this was not a disadvantage.

At the age of 5 she was introduced to a perfect Father, her heavenly Father. Upon Him the foundation of her life was built. She was always talking to the Lord: thanking Him for the beautiful clouds, the gift of life, or with help finding the TV remote (I can still hear her gentle, insistent voice, “Now, Father, I know You know where I left that remote. If You would just remind me, we can find it a whole lot quicker together”).

Mother walked with God. She talked with God. He was her constant companion throughout her 92 years on this earth.

The “Unseen” Hero Behind Chick-fil-A’s Success: Jeannette M. Cathy

From left → right: Dan Cathy, Jeannette Cathy, Trudy Cathy, and Don “Bubba” Cathy

A Friend

Mother knew who she was and Whose she was, and she saw that truth in other people.

At a time when the color of someone’s skin warranted appalling discrimination, Mother built flourishing relationships with people of varying ethnicity, age, and social status. Her heavenly Father treasured them, so too would she.

I can picture her now, elbows-deep in dishwater alongside Eddie White, one of the first employees at the Dwarf Grill (my dad’s original restaurant). Mom and Eddie didn’t look alike and her husband owned the restaurant, but that never stopped mom from pitching-in and getting to know anyone my dad hired.

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Order A Quiet Strength: The Life and Legacy of Jeannette M. Cathy, a heartwarming memoir that reveals Trudy's first-hand look at her mother's story in helping found the most influential and fastest-growing restaurant chain in the country.

A Servant Leader

Many might call Mother a servant leader…and they wouldn’t be wrong.

She loved to bring honor to her heavenly Father and inspired people by giving her time, talent, and treasure. But despite the growth of Dad’s business and recognition, Mother preferred the background to any stage.

She spoke publicly only a handful of times and wasn’t involved in day-to-day business decisions. Yet, without holding an official title, she played one of the most important roles in Chick-fil-A history: she was a rock – A Quiet Strength – for my dad and others. Quietly, yet impactfully, leading with her life.

I’ve yet to mention Mother’s self-taught talent for painting, her welcoming hospitality, determined fix-it-herself mentality, or delicious homemade meals. Don’t worry, I wrote a book about it all

Despite her petite stature, Mother was a giant. I think my dad said it best when comparing he and mom’s accomplishments: “Jeannette can and has done it all! All I ever did was put a piece of chicken between two buns.”


Without holding an official title, she played one of the most important roles in Chick-fil-A history: she was a rock – A Quiet Strength – for my dad and others.

A Legacy

My parents left an incredible legacy. Or better said, they lived a legacy.

While Dad’s business success is inspiring, the legacy I cherish most – the inheritance that means more than any possession – is the example of my father and mother’s lives.

To read more stories of my mom and our family, check out my newest book, A Quiet Strength: The Life and Legacy of Jeannette M. Cathy.

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