Deals to be recognized at Wesley Woods event

Former Gov. Nathan Deal and the late Sandra Deal, a Hall County native, will be honored at the 34th annual Heroes, Saints & Legends Gala benefiting the Foundation of Wesley Woods.

Heroes, Saints & Legends honors extraordinary individuals who have shaped our community through a lifetime commitment to leadership, service and philanthropy, according to the foundation website. Funds raised through Heroes, Saints & Legends benefit the mission and ministry of Wesley Woods which includes financial assistance with meals and housing, wellness programming and pastoral care to the older adults living in Wesley Woods communities.

The gala will be held beginning at 5:30 Thursday at Flourish by Legendary Events in Atlanta.

In announcing that the Deals will be among this year’s honorees, the foundation posted on its website some of the accomplishments of the former Gainesville residents:


First Lady Sandra Deal traveled the State of Georgia as an educator, author, historian, volunteer, and forever learner. As Georgia’s First Lady, Mrs. Deal promoted community service, volunteerism, and literacy initiatives alongside her husband of 56 years, Gov. Nathan Deal.

As a passionate advocate for literacy and student achievement, Mrs. Deal read to students in all of Georgia’s 159 counties and 181 school districts, resulting in more than 1000 school visits. Mrs. Deal launched “Read Across Georgia” during the month of March and led the Get Georgia Reading Campaign.  Mrs. Deal believed that all of Georgia’s students should be reading on grade-level by the end of the third grade.

Mrs. Deal served as a chairwoman of the Georgia Children’s Cabinet, which brought together community leaders, philanthropists, educators, and business stakeholders to best utilize resources and improve outcomes for children and families. The Cabinet worked to improve Georgia’s juvenile justice system and provide immunization cards for young children. Mrs. Deal also served as co-chair of the Georgia Literacy Commission which worked to improve multigenerational low literacy rates.

Mrs. Deal also chaired the Georgia Older Adults Cabinet, which focused on policy matters related to aging and bringing awareness to the welfare of older Georgians. To encourage volunteerism and promote community service, Mrs. Deal launched a statewide campaign called “With a Servant’s Heart” in 2011.

Mrs. Deal also served on the board of trustees for Georgia College, her alma mater and Piedmont University. In 2015, Mrs. Deal co-authored a book, “Memories of the Mansion” which covered the rich history of the Governor’s Mansion and experiences of Georgia’s first families.

Mrs. Deal was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer in 2018 after a routine mammogram and went public with her diagnosis to encourage women to get mammograms. She continued her duties as First Lady and fully engaged in life until her cancer spread and she passed away on August 23, 2022, at her home in the northeast Georgia town of Demorest, surrounded by family. (EDITOR’S NOTE: A new elementary school being built in her native Hall County will be named in her honor.)


Governor Nathan Deal is a Sandersville native who joined the United States Army and earned the rank of Captain following his graduation from Mercer University with a law degree.  He then began a private law practice in Gainesville, the hometown of his wife, Sandra Deal. While his wife taught in Hall County public schools, he began a career in public service, working as a prosecutor, judge, state senator and U.S. congressman for Georgia’s 9th District.

Gov. Deal spent 23 years in private law practice.  He was inducted as assistant district attorney in 1970 in Northeast Georgia followed by a judicial appointment as a juvenile court judge in Hall County the following year, a position he served till 1972.

He first served as Member of the Georgia Senate from the 49th district from 1981 to 1993. He became a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives in January 1993, a tenure that spanned 17 years, during which time he rose to chair the Health Subcommittee on Energy and Commerce.

Deal became the 82nd governor of Georgia in 2011 and served two terms. As governor, he led Georgia to become the No. 1 state in the nation for business for six consecutive years — a first in Georgia history — and helped create more than 800,000 private sector jobs. During his tenure, Georgia’s job growth outpaced the national average, while its population jumped from 10th to 8th nationally. Deal was successful reforming several issues but the overhaul of Georgia’s Criminal Justice system one of the most significant and became a model other states followed as well as the federal government.

Through meaningful tax reform, workforce development initiatives for those with all manner of capabilities, and investment in education and infrastructure, the state continues to grow local small businesses and attract top companies from around the world.

Governor Deal and First Lady, Sandra Deal, moved back home to North Georgia in 2019 when he left office to enjoy the beauty of our state’s natural and more rural areas. Former Governor Deal spends the majority of his time with their four adult children and six grandchildren and writing.