GAINESVILLE - The co-founder and CEO of Fieldale Farms, Joe S. Hatfield, passed away Saturday at Northeast Georgia Medical Center after a brief illness.
Abit Massey, executive director of the Georgia Poultry Federation, said, "Joe was an outstanding person, he was one of the strong successful poultry pioneers.
"He will be remembered for his service to the poultry industry and also his strong participation in church and civic work," he added.
A native of Tennessee, Mr. Hatfield moved to Gainesville in 1951 after earning an agriculture degree from Purdue University and service in the United States Navy during World War II.
Associated with Georgia Broilers (1951-57), he purchased the Gainesville Fryer Company with other investors in 1957 and served as its president. The company was sold to the Ralston Purina Company in 1962 where he remained a division manager. In 1972, Hatfield and two partners, Lee and Tom Arrendale (now deceased), purchased the poultry division of Ralston Purina Company and launched Fieldale Farms Corporation with 750 employees.
Hatfield was considered a poultry industry titan, building his company from its fledgling beginnings to a global provider of fresh, frozen and further processed poultry products. The company is the largest employer in Northeast Georgia with nearly 5,000 employees at various production sites and is one of the largest independently owned poultry processors in the country.
Hatfield also served in leadership roles within in the poultry industry, in commerce and in the community. Twice named to USDA and US Trade Representative's export policy advisory commissions, he was also former chairman of the National Broiler Council, now called the National Chicken Council and made American trade missions to China, Iraq, Chile and other export destinations around the globe.
Last spring, Hatfield received the Ralph Cleveland Distinguished Citizen Award from the Northeast Georgia Council of Boy Scouts of America.
Two years earlier, he was presented with an honorary doctorate degree from Purdue University. Hatfield, a 1947 graduate of Purdue, said at the time he didn't even know the honor was given to anyone until it was given to him. "The only condition was that I had to be present at the graduation at Perdue in West Lafayette, Indiana, to receive my diploma."
Also in 2005, the Board of Trustees of Northeast Georgia Health System recognized Hatfield with a resolution in honor of his community dedication, demonstrated by his leadership and volunteer service to the Hospital Authority of Hall County, Northeast Georgia Medical Center Board and Northeast Georgia Health System Board that spanned more than two decades. In addition to serving as chair of the Health System Board from 1992-1995, Hatfield served on and chaired numerous committees within the Board structure.
A memorial service will be held Tuesday at 4:00 PM at First Presbyterian Church in Gainesville. (A full obituary can be found on the Obituaries Page of AccessNorthGa.com).