Gov. Lester Maddox, nearing the end of his term when Pettys began working for The AP at the state Capitol in 1970, called him “the long-haired devil” but continued to keep in touch with Pettys by phone long after he left office. To the statehouse press corps, Pettys became known as “the dean,” who over the course of 35 years developed a vast institutional memory and a knack for mentoring newcomers.
Pettys, 66, died Monday (Oct. 8) at his north Georgia home outside of Clarkesville. His son, Richard R. Pettys Jr., said he suffered a massive heart attack.