Former Brenau Trustee Abit Massey passes away

Abit and Kayanne Massey next to statue of FDR
Abit and Kayanne Massey, a Brenau Women’s College alumna, pose for a photo next to the statue of President Franklin D. Roosevelt they donated to Brenau during the university's 2014 Gala.

Abit Massey, an icon of Georgia’s poultry industry and a former member of the Brenau Board of Trustees, passed away June 14 of cancer. He was 96.

“We were saddened to learn of the passing of Abit Massey. He and his wife, Kayanne, a Brenau alumna, had long been friends and supporters of the university,” Brenau President David L. Barnett, Ph.D., said. “We express our deepest condolences to Kayanne and the entire Massey family. Georgia has lost a brilliant business mind and caring philanthropic heart.”

Abit Massey was born on Nov. 14, 1927, in Hall County, Georgia. He graduated from the University of Georgia in 1949 with a business degree and earned a law degree from Emory University in 1955. In 1959, he became director of the Georgia Department of Commerce, now the Department of Economic Development, where he created the Tourist Division and built the first Georgia Welcome Station, according to the Digital Library of Georgia.

Massey met then-Kayanne Shoffner in 1959 during her reign as Miss Georgia, and the two married and moved to Gainesville, Georgia, where Kayanne, WC ’63, continued her degree at Brenau. The Masseys were longtime supporters and donors of Brenau, including donating a statue of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and nominating the university for a Governor’s Award for the Arts and Humanities.

Massey became president of the Georgia Poultry Foundation in 1960 and continued in that role for 48 years. He was inducted into the Poultry Industry Hall of Fame in 2019 after advocating for the poultry industry and working to expand research in the field. His tireless work helped propel Georgia’s poultry industry into nationwide and global prominence.

Massey was recognized by the Gainesville Rotary Club in May, an event that included congratulations from four Georgia governors.

“I would suggest that a biography needs to be written about Abit Massey and it needs to be titled ‘The Best Governor the State of Georgia Never Had,’” former Gov. Nathan Deal said at the event.

Gov. Brian Kemp said Massey’s impact on Georgia, “especially when it comes to agriculture and poultry, will be felt for generations to come.”

“It is certainly a testament to a life well-lived that so many of our state’s influential leaders past and present take the time to honor him here today,” Kemp said at the event.

Other honors Massey earned include the 1986 UGA Alumni Merit Award, the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association’s 2012 Harold E. Ford Lifetime Achievement Award and the inaugural Medallion of Honor for Service to the UGA College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences. The Georgia Poultry Laboratory Network sits on Abit Massey Way just off state Route 365 in Gainesville, Georgia.

Funeral arrangements have not been announced.