Richard Jackson Pope, a local businessman, entrepreneur and “visionary,” died Saturday at age 79 following a brief illness.
His friends and business colleagues saw him as much more than a business leader. Longtime friend Freddy Seagraves said, “The man I knew was more than the quiet, brilliant businessman most folks saw. He was the guy who loved adventures, loved to travel and was a friend you could count on when you needed his support. He was an anchor, a man of much integrity. I am so grateful for our crazy fun times together.”
Pope traveled six continents, loved to bungee-jump, wrap-jump, paraglide and snow ski. He was a hobby farmer, architect and developer at heart.
Mike Bow, President of E’arrs Inc., was a business associate of Pope’s for 33 years.
“He was the first person to encourage me to ‘think outside’ the box,” Bow said. “That is a common phrase today, but when Richard gave me that advice many years ago, I had never heard it and it had a profound influence on me and inspired me to create a new mindset.
“He set the example; he always thought outside the box and the words ‘no’ or ‘cannot do it’ were not in his vocabulary. He was a positive problem solver, a visionary.”
“Thoughtful, wonderful mentor and one of the most intelligent people I have ever known” was Bow’s summary of Pope.
Said Mike Jones, president of Georgia Financial Services: “Richard was a very private person, and he had lots of friends. But only a few were fortunate enough to get to know the real Richard Pope. Richard was a very caring and generous man.
“I was lucky enough to get to know this side of him and worked for him for over 34 years. I am forever grateful for everything he did for me and for the knowledge he shared with me.”
A native of Atlanta, Pope was a 1955 graduate of Gainesville High School, 1957 graduate of Emory at Oxford and obtained his business administration degree from Emory University in 1959.
Following graduation from Emory, he returned to Gainesville, where his father encouraged him to start his own business and Georgia Financial Services was created. In 1983 he founded E’arrs Inc., a leading international supplier of jewelry accessories.
His entrepreneurial talents and vision resulted in several successful business ventures over the years, including a Christmas tree farm, Oriental rug store, furniture and appliance store and bar owner.
In honor of his mother, the late Ocie Rich Pope, founder of the Hall School of Nursing (now the Brenau School of Nursing) and charter member of the Hall County Hospital Auxiliary, Richard served as the first male member and treasurer of the Auxiliary Board for 13 years. He also served as a board member of The Medical Center Foundation where he and his wife, Lona, served as co-chairs of the Laurel Society.
His father, the late Ralph Pope, was one of the early successful poultry pioneers. Ralph’s business acumen coupled with Ocie’s philanthropy and community service priorities provided examples for Richard. In honor of his parents and his family, Richard and his wife and partner, Lona, donated the Pope Family Garden to Northeast Georgia Medical Center in 2013. Nancy Colston, President and CEO of The Medical Center Foundation said at the time of the dedication, “The Pope family has created a special legacy that will serve patients, their families and staff for generations to come.”
A private celebration of his life will be held at a later date in the Pope Family Garden located on the grounds of Northeast Georgia Medical Center.