Richard Roy Pettys, (Dick) Son of Norman William Pettys and Jenny Lind Mather Pettys, has passed. He was born on November 25, 1945 at St Joseph’s Hospital in Atlanta, GA. He grew up in the Morningside area of Atlanta and resided on E. Pelham Rd. He attended Morningside Elementary, was active in YMCA Indian Guides and DeMolay. He took up the saxophone at age 13 and graduated from North Fulton High School in 1963 where, at the time of his passing, he was helping to plan the fiftieth reunion of his class. It was at North Fulton that Dick became interested in Journalism through the influence of his teacher, Kathryne Connell. He...
Richard Roy Pettys, (Dick) Son of Norman William Pettys and Jenny Lind Mather Pettys, has passed. He was born on November 25, 1945 at St Joseph’s Hospital in Atlanta, GA. He grew up in the Morningside area of Atlanta and resided on E. Pelham Rd. He attended Morningside Elementary, was active in YMCA Indian Guides and DeMolay. He took up the saxophone at age 13 and graduated from North Fulton High School in 1963 where, at the time of his passing, he was helping to plan the fiftieth reunion of his class. It was at North Fulton that Dick became interested in Journalism through the influence of his teacher, Kathryne Connell. He attended the University of Georgia where he met his wife of 47 years, Marian Stephanie Suessmith of Smyrna, GA. They had three boys, Richard Roy Pettys, Jr , William Howland Pettys II (Beaux), and Clement Nelson Pettys (Chip).
In the late sixties, Dick and Stephanie bought their first home in Lawrenceville, GA, while he was working for the Gwinnett Daily News at a salary of $65 per week. In 1969, Dick was hired by the Associated Press as a political correspondent and began his brilliant career. In 1974, Dick moved his family back to Morningside, a mere nine houses from where he grew up.
Shortly after moving back to Atlanta, Dick and his family became heavily involved in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. Dick became the Cubmaster of Pack 29 and, later on, the Scoutmaster of Troop 455. It was through Scouting that Dick earned substantial amounts of gratitude in his community. He is fondly remembered as a mentor, a tireless worker, and most of all, the example to which many young men aspired. His boys would hear frequently, "you have the best Dad."
As to his professional life, Dick asked that the following, an article from his first retirement in 2005, be used in his obituary (he was a planner too):
JILL VEJNOSKA DATE: January 15, 2006 PUBLICATION: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The (GA) EDITION: Home; The Atlanta Journal-Constitution SECTION: Metro News PAGE: D12
Funny -- he doesn't look like a museum piece. Yet to many, Dick Pettys is worth preserving. When he retired recently from The Associated Press after more than three decades of keeping Georgia politicians honest (or not), his colleagues started throwing around words like "institution" and "the very definition of a journalist." Drawled former Gov. Roy Barnes: "I told him, 'You're such a fixture, when you die, they're gonna stuff you and put you up on the third floor of the Capitol." But the lean and unlined 60-year-old looks a long way from the taxidermist's needle. And for a fixture, Pettys seems awfully comfortable with change. Last week, for the first time in 35 years, the legislative session began without Pettys at his desk in the Associated Press office in the Legislative Office Building. But he was just down the hall, reporting in the comparatively wild frontier of the Internet for the influential
online newsletter InsiderAdvantage Georgia. "Everyone should change jobs every 36 years," Pettys said with a sort of wry understatement rarely heard here or across the street at the Capitol. "It keeps you fresh." Not that Pettys ever seemed in danger of getting stale. The man seemed never to stop working, frequently eating popcorn for lunch while typing with what can only be described as the Pettys Four Finger Method. He ticked off his fair share of politicians over the years -- the late Gov. Lester Maddox dubbed him a "long-haired devil" -- but he also won their respect. "Dick was a walking encyclopedia of the last half of the 20th century in Georgia politics," said U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, the Cobb County Republican who first met Pettys as a rookie state representative in 1976. "On my last statewide race, he traveled with me for a day to do a story, and I ended up asking him more questions than he asked me." Pettys "got my goat so many times," said Barnes, who nevertheless had the AP man's name put on a chair in the governor's office to ensure he got a good seat at news conferences. "Dick could criticize you, and you'd still like him. That's the mark of a great journalist." Zell Miller paid Pettys perhaps the highest compliment. The former governor and U.S. senator said that even though he didn't always like what Pettys wrote, he never stopped talking to him. For one thing, he said, Pettys was eminently fair: "He wouldn't write anything about somebody without giving them a chance to reply." For another, he was really good at finding people. "He knew how you came into the building and how you came out," Miller chuckled. That aggressive streak served Pettys well. "Dick hated getting beat on a state government story, and it rarely happened," Isakson aide Joan Kirchner recalled in an e-mail. Kirchner worked with Pettys at AP for nine years. "If the [Atlanta Journal-Constitution] reporters ever closed their door during the day, Dick would go into overdrive, because that was a sign that one of them had a good scoop. . . . Anyone who came out of the AJC office would get grilled by Dick in the hallway. 'What are you working on?' he would ask. On the other hand, Dick loved the days when he got to close his door because he had the scoop." And now, stop the presses. Literally. At a time when most reporters would term-limit themselves into retirement, Pettys is instead giving less traditional journalism an enthusiastic go. There are fewer firm deadlines and datelines on the Web, and his readership is smaller, more select (an annual subscription costs $220) and presumably chock-full of know-it-alls. "It is a very niche area," said Matt Towery, a former Republican state legislator who is chairman and CEO of the newsletter's parent company, Insider Advantage. "We're writing it primarily for however many thousands of people play in this arena every day." Pettys took the job because he loves covering government and politics and because he thought he might have more free time to try writing fiction. Yet there he was last Monday, covering two committee meetings and updating stories throughout the day. He's no blogger, Pettys stressed, but his notes on the previous evening's Wild Hog Supper began appearing online while the traditional kickoff event was still under way at the Georgia Railroad Depot. It takes a lot of 14-hour days and weekend work to keep the insatiable Internet monster happy, Pettys conceded last week. But, he said, he's never felt less stressed.
"I really like my editor," he said drolly, referring to himself. A collector of mostly World War II-era pistols (and an occasional rescuer of abandoned cats), he's never been challenged to a duel at the Capitol. But he's seen plenty of verbal combat. In the early 1970s, Maddox, then lieutenant governor, was feuding with Gov. Jimmy Carter. When Pettys had the temerity to ask a few questions, "Lester exploded, called me a 'long-haired devil' and threatened to get me fired," Pettys recalled in an e-mail. "Lester and I never really had any problems after that, and I will admit that while almost everyone was wearing their hair longer in those days, I probably overdid it somewhat." Maddox was the first of seven Georgia governors whom Pettys covered for the AP. Of them all, Miller seems to have made the most vivid impression on him. It was Miller who brought the virtually unknown James Carville to Georgia during his run for governor in 1990, and Miller whose bareknuckled re-election campaign against Republican Guy Millner in 1994 was Pettys' favorite race to cover. "He's a master of politics," Pettys said. "He brought the modern age of politics to Georgia." And it seems like the two helped raise each other's game. Once, when Miller was governor, someone wrote a news story saying he had prostate cancer. Pettys checked with Miller's press secretary --"absolutely not true" was the response -- then forgot about it until he saw the governor's car pull in one morning while he was walking to the Legislative Office Building. Miller, recalling the story, said he knew that Pettys had been asking around about his health and knew that Pettys often lingered near where he parked his car in the mornings so that he could catch him for a question. So he planned a little surprise. "Miller hops out and yells, 'Come over here, I've got something for you,'" said Pettys, who found himself face to face with a rubber glove. "'I've told you I'm in good health. If you don't believe me, you can check for yourself.'" Pause. "It was a long time before I inquired about his health again." With material like that, why waste time writing fiction?
BYLINE: JILL VEJNOSKA DATE: January 15, 2006
A fixture of Georgia Politics, Dick Pettys became affectionately known as The Dean.
In 2005, after 36 years, Dick retired, for the first time, from the Associated Press. The Georgia Senate honored him in an unprecedented manner when the chamber allowed him to speak from the rostrum. He received two standing ovations. Afterwards, his colleagues jokingly called him the Senator from the 57th. This was a play on how Senators from the 56 districts of Georgia address one another on the floor.
Another of the celebrations of his first retirement was held at Manuel’s Tavern in Atlanta, hosted by Associated Press colleagues, and was a who’s who in Georgia Politics: Zell Miller, Roy Barnes, Johnny Isakson and many others were in attendance. Zell Miller told Dick’s second son, Beaux, "your father never gave me whipping that I didn’t deserve," to which Beaux replied, "Yeah, me too." His brothers, Richard and Chip, agree to those sentiments as well.
In 2008, Dick retired, for the second time, from Insider Advantage. There was no shortage of accolades then either. His second retirement was filled with many well wishes and a big bash at Anthony’s in Buckhead where many colleagues and dignitaries were present.
In 2009, he sold his home in Morningside and began construction on a mountain home in Clarkesville, GA. He and Stephanie moved in their new home in October of 2010. Also, in 2009, Dick took a once- in a lifetime father and son trip, with his second son, to London, England. During this trip, Dick became acquainted with the city which he had always wanted to visit. He enjoyed a private tour of Parliament with The Duke of Montrose and had lunch in the private dining hall of the House of Lords. "This is definitely different from the State Capitol," he told his son. Dick and Stephanie watched much of the 2012 Olympics in London on television, Stephanie said, "Dick would see a part of the city and tell me exactly where it was located and the history behind it."
From 2008 to May of 2012, he wrote on a freelance basis for Insider Advantage. At the end of his business relationship with Insider Advantage, Dick wrote, "Maybe I’ll do some freelancing or write a book. Or maybe I’ll just sit and rock on the screen porch with the cats and enjoy the view from the ridge."
Dick so much enjoyed the Habersham County Community; he loved the quiet of the mountains, and the peacefulness of his surroundings. He also relished the time spent with his grandchildren: Cheyenne, Hannah and Richard (his namesake and spitting image), and the visits of his sons, their wives, friends and family.
With his fiftieth high school reunion approaching, he thought a lot about the teacher that gave him the inclination to write and, ultimately, pursue his life’s profession, Kathryne Connell. She was also the subject of the last article he published entitled, "The Best Teacher Ever." He had to put some of his investigative journalism to use to find what had become of her and where she was buried – which he did. He and a couple of classmates intended to have a dram of 12 year Scotch whisky, which he rarely drank, at her gravesite as a salute. He is now having that dram in person - or spirit.
Dick passed at his beloved mountain home with his wife of 47 years by his side. After all of the attention that his passing had received, his new neighbors were stunned to find out that the mild mannered and quiet resident of their small mountain community was so well thought of by so many people. Dick was never one to brag or self – aggrandize. He was shy, unassuming and … great.
Unlike Richard Roy Pettys himself, we are not shy about spelling out exactly what this extraordinary and humble man meant to us:
"He was the best there is," so say his colleagues, his friends, those he mentored, those he covered, and those he loved. Though he retired twice, and was fortunate enough to hear and read all of the wonderful things said and written about him, he would have never suspected that on October 9, 2012, the flags at the Georgia State Capitol would be flown at half – mast in his honor and that the story of his third, and final, retirement would fill pages of search engine results and be the top trending subject on social network sites. Loyal Son, Friend, Husband, Father, Grandfather, Cub Master, Scout Master, Writer and Reporter, the Dean is dead.
I believe there is some space on the third floor of the Capitol with Dick Pettys’ name on it.
That’s The View From the Ridge.
Dick is survived by his wife, Stephanie, his three sons and their families, his sister Barbara Macon Pettys, and, his brother Norman William Pettys, Jr.
The Visitation will be held on Sunday, October 14, 2012 from 4pm – 7pm, At HM Patterson’s Oglethorpe Hill, 4550 Peachtree Road Northeast, Atlanta, GA 30319, (404) 261-3510, in the main chapel. Eulogies will begin at 5:30PM and guests will be given the opportunity to speak. Gentlemen are encouraged to wear Blue Blazers and Khakis – Dick’s staple uniform. The church service and interment of his ashes will be held on Tuesday, October 16, 2012, at St Paul the Apostle Catholic Church at 3PM. 1243 Hulsey Road, Cleveland, GA 30528-2834. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Best Friends Animal Society, www.bestfriends.org.