Remembering Abit Massey, Georgia Poultry Industry Icon and Longtime Supporter of Georgia Tech Agricultural Research

Abit Massey, president emeritus of the Georgia Poultry Federation and one of the state’s most effective lobbyists, passed away peacefully on June 14 at the age of 96.
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Abit Massey

Abit Massey, president emeritus of the Georgia Poultry Federation and one of the state’s most effective lobbyists, passed away peacefully on June 14 at the age of 96.

While known across the state of Georgia for his legendary impact on agricultural and poultry industry issues, he is best known at Georgia Tech for the pivotal role he played in the creation of the Georgia Tech Research Institute’s (GTRI) Agricultural Technology Research Program (ATRP).

In the early 1970s, as Massey fondly recalled on many occasions, he received an inquiry about a noise problem in a poultry processing plant through his role with the Georgia Poultry Federation. At the time, he was also serving on a Board of Regents committee that had set up a service enabling citizens with a need to call one number and be referred to an expert in the University System of Georgia. He thought the inquiry was the perfect opportunity to test the new referral system. So, he called the number in the morning and by the afternoon a meeting had been set up with Georgia Tech.

That phone call and subsequent meeting led to a decades-long relationship with Massey. He lobbied the Georgia General Assembly for the first $100,000 appropriation to involve Georgia Tech in studies supporting the poultry industry. Over the next 50 years, with his ongoing advocacy, the program’s annual appropriation grew year after year, and now tops $2 million.

“Abit Massey was one of a kind — a spirited and enthusiastic supporter of Georgia Tech who used his career to strengthen our economy, drive agricultural and industrial innovation, and feed millions of people,” said Ángel Cabrera, president of Georgia Tech. “Thanks to his leadership, Georgia Tech’s Agricultural Technology Research Program has spent decades applying the latest scientific advances to our state’s agricultural industry, which has helped make Georgia farms safer, more efficient, more productive, and more sustainable. His life embodied Tech’s motto of Progress and Service, and he will be sorely missed.”

Additionally, he was a constant advisor and partnership-builder, connecting ATRP researchers with representatives from leading poultry companies and allied organizations, establishing a strong ATRP Industry Advisory Committee that meets annually to help guide the program’s research agenda. This public-private partnership is recognized as one of the leading programs of its kind in the country, where university researchers work together with industry partners to develop new technologies and adapt existing ones for specialized industrial needs.

He also took time to inspire future poultry industry leaders. Each spring, when he would attend an advisory committee meeting, he particularly enjoyed meeting and engaging with students. In 2019, ATRP established the Abit Massey Student Internship Program in his honor. The goal of the program is to prepare the next generation of researchers and professionals to innovatively tackle the challenges of building the poultry plant of the future.

Massey, a University of Georgia (UGA) alumnus, was also key to strengthening Georgia Tech’s collaborations with UGA. As the state’s leading engineering university and land-grant institution, respectively, the duo worked on projects over the years that helped drive innovations in the agricultural sector by combining engineering knowledge with poultry science expertise.

His steadfast dedication to ATRP cements his legacy as the program’s true champion. In April 2023 at ATRP’s 50th Anniversary Celebration, he was presented with the first F. Abit Massey Champion Award in appreciation of his unwavering support and commitment to the development and sustainment of ATRP. Going forward the namesake award will be presented to an individual who exemplifies the spirit of Massey by going above and beyond in support of ATRP.

“Mr. Massey graciously leveraged his connections and influence to both found and then actively champion the Agricultural Technology Research Program at Georgia Tech. We are extremely grateful for all that he did for ATRP and the agriculture and poultry industries in Georgia. He was one-of-a-kind, a truly very special person and a real modern-day gentleman,” said Doug Britton, ATRP program manager.

“We will forever be grateful for Abit’s contributions to GTRI and ATRP and will ensure his commitment to educating the next generation of poultry leaders continues through the Abit Massey Student Internship Program. His charm, wit, welcoming nature, and guidance will be deeply missed,” said Jim Hudgens, GTRI director.

Massey received numerous awards and commendations, including being the only UGA graduate to receive a Presidential Citation for Distinguished Service from Georgia Tech. Awarded in 2009, the citation in part recognized Massey’s championing of university research and outreach, and the role it can play in promoting economic development in the state. Other notable contributions to Georgia Tech include helping to secure public and private funding for GTRI’s Food Processing Technology Building, assisting with the expansion of the Enterprise Innovation Institute’s regional field office network, and serving on various Institute advisory boards.

To hear Massey’s recollections of the growth of Georgia’s poultry industry and his history with ATRP, listen to Episode 3 of the Georgia Tech Research Podcast series commemorating ATRP’s 50th Anniversary here.