For The Record

Former first lady of Georgia Sandra Deal dies at 80

By: - August 23, 2022 9:26 pm

Former Georgia First Lady Sandra Deal talks to child during a visit to the Elizabeth Porter Recreation Center in Marietta in 2014. Photo courtesy of the city of Marietta

Former Georgia First Lady Sandra Deal is being remembered as a champion of literacy. 

Deal died Tuesday at her home in Demorest from breast cancer that had metastasized into brain cancer with her husband of 56 years and family at her side. She was 80. 

Deal, a former teacher, was often seen at the state Capitol during her husband Nathan Deal’s time in the governor’s mansion, and as first lady, she made a point to visit every county and school district in the state to read to students. 

“The public Sandra Deal matched the private Sandra Deal,” her family said in a statement Tuesday. “She gave to others selflessly, unfailingly and unceasingly. We will miss her but count ourselves lucky that we were hers. She leaves a world that’s better because she was here.” 

The tributes quickly poured in Tuesday. Gov. Briank Kemp, who succeeded Deal in 2019, and First Lady Marty Kemp issued a joint statement recalling Sandra Deal’s “genuine kindness” whose love for teaching lives on at Sandra Dunagan Deal Center for Early Language and Literacy on the Georgia College and State University campus in Milledgeville, where she received her training. 

“The proud daughter of teachers and a two-time graduate of what would become Georgia College & State University, she dedicated her professional life to the same career as her parents – educating the growing minds of Georgia Her generosity of spirit ensured not only that she was beloved by her students, but also an influential force in their lives, leaving an imprint not just on their minds but also on their hearts,” the Kemps said. 

House Speaker David Ralston, a Blue Ridge Republican, called Sandra Deal the “source and inspiration for greatness” for former Gov. Nathan Deal. 

“Mrs. Deal brought a rare level of beauty, grace, dignity and warmth to the Governor’s office,” Ralston said in a statement. “We will miss her smile and her way of lifting up all those around her. But we take comfort knowing she is in the peaceful presence of our Heavenly Father.”

Plans for a celebration of life ceremony will be announced soon. 

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Jill Nolin
Jill Nolin

Jill Nolin has spent nearly 15 years reporting on state and local government in four states, focusing on policy and political stories and tracking public spending. She has spent the last five years chasing stories in the halls of Georgia’s Gold Dome, earning recognition for her work showing the impact of rising opioid addiction on the state’s rural communities. She is a graduate of Troy University.