Poultry industry icon Abit Massey dies

He served as the president of the Georgia Federation for 48 years and remained active as president emeritus.

Abit Massey
Abit Massey
Courtesy University of Georgia

Abit Massey, president emeritus of the Georgia Poultry Federation (GPF) and well-known poultry industry lobbyist, died June 14, 2024. He was 96.

For 48 years, Massey served as the president of the Georgia Poultry Federation. He joined the organization in 1960, retiring in 2009. But he remained active as president emeritus.

“To say Abit was a man of integrity, character and kindness is an understatement,” said National Chicken Council Interim President Gary Kushner. “He knew everyone’s name, and everyone knew his. He was the kind of person that when speaking to him in a room of 200 people, he made you feel like the only one there. His work helped to put Georgia’s poultry industry on the map, building the foundation for its national prominence today. He was a titan of the industry and will truly be missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with Kayanne and the family.”

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, continued her degree at Brenau University. 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.

Because of his hard work and dedication that helped propel Georgia's poultry industry into nationwide and global prominence, Massey 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.

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.  

Most recently, the University of Georgia announced in late 2023 that it was naming a classroom at the university's new poultry science building after Massey.

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