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Communities come together to celebrate longtime poultry leader
Massey recognized with Appreciation Day, noting his dedication to industry
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Lucy Bagwell signs a book for Abit Massey during an event honoring Massey Thursday at Peach State Bank and Trust in Gainesville. Bagwell, whose family has gone to several University of Georgia football games with Massey, said traveling with Massey "was like traveling with the president" because it seemed as if everyone knew him. - photo by Erin O. Smith

How do you recognize a lifetime of achievements by someone like Abit Massey?

Well in the “Poultry Capital of the World,” you get together the community for a time of enjoyment and fire up the grills with — what else? — chicken.

Peach State Bank & Trust on Thursday evening hosted an Abit Massey Appreciation Day to honor Massey for his many years of service and dedication promoting the state of Georgia and its poultry industry.

As part of the celebration, Massey was presented with a bust statue of himself that will be now be displayed at the Georgia Poultry Laboratory Network’s facility in Gainesville, which just happens to be located on Abit Massey Way. City, county and state officials also issued proclamations noting Oct. 6, 2016, as Abit Massey Day.

“This is a unique and special honor,” Massey said. “It is so good to be with so many friends. This is more than I deserve, but I am very appreciative.”

Massey noted the gratitude he has for his family, as well as the community.

“It has been a great privilege to work with so many of you in so many different ways,” he said. “This is all such a shock and pleasure and surprise, thanks to everyone.”

“And let me just say that this would be overwhelming and exciting and an honor and a privilege at any time in life, but I am particularly grateful that it comes now at the mid-point of my career,” he jokingly added. 

Massey is president emeritus of the Georgia Poultry Federation. He has been at the helm of the organization since 1960, also having served as the group’s executive director and president through the years. During this time he has worked tirelessly for the promotion of the Georgia poultry industry, which provides approximately $38 billion to the state’s economy every year — through its farms, processing and support segments — and is the largest segment of the state’s agriculture.

Massey’s presence has not only been known in the poultry industry, but also in the many varied interests that have been priorities in his life.

“Mr. Massey is the chairman of our community development board. He is such an asset to our bank and has made such a difference in the poultry industry, Gainesville and the entire state of Georgia,” Peach State Bank & Trust Marketing Director Susan Williams. “He has touched so many lives and we wanted to honor and give him the credit that he so richly deserves. When we first approached him about the event, his initial reaction was, ‘there are so many people that are much more deserving.” I respectfully disagree!”

“Abit is certainly appreciated in the Gainesville community, but other communities of people feel the same way about him,” said Mike Giles, Georgia Poultry Federation president. “In the poultry industry, Abit is recognized throughout the nation for his many years of service in support of making our industry stronger. In the lobbying profession, he is a role model for young and experienced lobbyists alike. In the trade association profession, Abit chaired the Georgia and American Society of Association Executives and has an annual lecture named in his honor. In the field of higher education, Abit received the highest award for support from the presidents of both the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech. He is appreciated by thousands of people, and I’m glad that we had this day to recognize and thank him.”

Dr. Louise Dufour-Zavala, executive director of the Georgia Poultry Laboratory Network, noted to the several hundred attendees at the event that, like many, Massey has been an inspiration.

“The most important thing he inspired me to do is to serve this industry to the highest standard,” Zavala said. “But standards in Abit’s world don’t have a scale. It’s not like you have a low standard, medium standard and a high standard. There is only a high standard and that is what you do when you are around Abit.”

“Thank you Abit for inspiring your generation and mine,” she added. “Thank you for remembering everyone’s name, thank you for accepting everyone’s culture and thank you for all of those pats on the back and all of those wide smiles.”

Pete Martin, vice president of poultry operations with Mar-Jac Poultry, also expressed his thanks and admiration for Massey.

“Abit Massey is a man of the highest integrity and sterling character, and a hero of the poultry industry, especially here in Georgia and the southeast,” Martin said.

“I can remember back in my early years in the industry, it didn’t matter if it was a processing problem, it didn’t matter if it was a personnel problem; and certainly anything that had to do with regulatory or state agencies, federal or anything of that nature — you call Abit and get his advice,” he said. “We certainly appreciate all of the efforts and certainly all of the help that he has been to our great industry, to our state and to our country during his lifetime.”

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