Apr 17, 2024
Jerry Dowdy of Georgia’s Atwell Pecan dies

Jerry David Dowdy, owner of Atwell Pecan Co. in Wrens, Georgia, has died. He was 77.

Dowdy, who died April 12, was born in 1947 in Glennville, Georgia.

A former chairman of the National Pecan Shellers Association (NPSA), Dowdy “left behind a legacy of hard work, dedication and commitment to family,” and was “a beloved husband, father, grandfather, and friend to many,” according to an obituary.

Jerry David Dowdy
Jerry David Dowdy

“It is with deepest sympathy to report the passing of our friend Jerry David Dowdy, owner of Atwell Pecan,” according to an April 17 newsletter from the Georgia Pecan Growers Association. “As a lifetime member of the Georgia Pecan Growers Association and former chairman of NPSA, Jerry will forever be remembered and missed. His service to this industry will not be forgotten.”

After graduating Glennville High School in the 1960s, Dowdy attended Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College and the University of Georgia, graduating in 1970 with a degree in Forest Resources. Finding the field of forestry crowded with few entry level jobs, Dowdy entered the pecan industry.

He joined Mascot Pecan Co. in Glennville, where he worked under his late father-in-law, Hugh Oliver. Dowdy’s wife Susan had grown up around the pecan shelling business as her father was co-owner of another shelling plant, according to Pecan South Magazine.

In 1971, Dowdy followed his father-in-law’s advice and moved to Wrens to learn how to operate and manage the Atwell pecan shelling plant. Dowdy managed the procurement and shelling operation while Susan ran the office, according to the magazine.

Atwell Pecan Co.Dowdy and Susan grew Atwell, which began in 1935, into a successful shelling plant and cold storage facility, according to the report.  In 1989, the shelling plant expanded to include Thames Pecan Co., which wholesales pecans and other nuts including almonds, walnuts and cashews. Dowdy owned and operated Atwell until his 2021 retirement.

In 2008, the couple opened The Orchards Gourmet, a candy manufacturing and marketing firm. In the 2010s, Atwell handled up to five million pounds of pecans annually, according to Pecan South.

“Jerry’s leadership and commitment to excellence in the pecan industry earned him the position of Chairman of the National Pecan Shellers Association, where he dedicated many years of service,” according to the obituary.

In 2021, Stuckey’s Corp. purchased Atwell, and continues marketing nuts under Atwell’s name. Wrens is southwest of Augusta, Georgia.

Dowdy is survived by his wife, Susan Oliver Dowdy, two children and their spouses, three grandchildren, three siblings, as well as numerous other family members, friends, and colleagues.

Active in his church, Dowdy served as a deacon at Louisville Presbyterian Church. He also served as a director and chairman of the board at First State Bank.

He was known for his straightforward nature but was always accompanied by a dry wit that brought smiles to those around him, according to the obituary. While he was known for creating treats, Dowdy was also known as “Bigfoot” by many of his employees. As soon as something went wrong, Dowdy appeared out of thin air, thus giving him this nickname.

A visitation was on April 16 with a private burial to be scheduled for later.

Read the full obituary here.


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