Connell Clines Stafford Jr., 75, passed away peacefully from kidney failure on Sunday, July 23, 2023, at his apple orchard in Hendersonville, North Carolina.
Connell was born in Macon, Georgia, on Jan. 15, 1948, the son of Connell C. Stafford Sr. and Chester Sheffield Stafford. He graduated from Willingham High School for Boys in 1966 and from Georgia Southern College (now Georgia Southern University) in 1970. He later earned a master’s degree in Public Administration from American University in Washington, D.C.
His first job after college was teaching geography and history at the Florence Bernd Elementary School in Macon. In 1972, he met then State Rep. Sam Nunn and soon became one of the first staff members of the fledgling Sam Nunn for U.S. Senate campaign. After a successful campaign, Connell accepted Sen. Nunn’s offer to move to Washington to work on his Senate staff as Executive Assistant.
While he was a Senate staffer, Connell met his future wife, Shay English of Hendersonville, North Carolina. The couple was engaged at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. They married in 1975 and were blessed with two daughters, Ali and Jenna.
In 1978, the Staffords moved to Atlanta when Connell became the manager of Sen. Nunn’s first reelection campaign. Upon Sen. Nunn’s return to the Senate, Connell accepted an offer to work with the governmental affairs team of The Coca-Cola Company, where he later became Vice- President of International Governmental Relations.
After his time on Sen. Nunn’s staff, Connell remained close friends with the Senator and his staff colleagues. Significantly, Sen. Nunn often publicly acknowledged his respect for and gratitude to Connell for his friendship and the many ways in which he had supported the Senator’s career.
Upon completing 25 years with The Coca-Cola Company, Connell moved to another type of public affairs platform for more than a decade as the Director of Public Strategies with Troutman Pepper Strategies, the public affairs arm of the national law firm now known as Troutman Pepper Hamilton Sanders LLP.
Throughout his career, Connell became a well-known and respected government affairs professional, traveling often to state capitals and Washington, D.C., to share his employers’ and clients’ perspective on pending policy issues with Governors, state legislators and members of Congress.
Connell’s basic approach to government relations was to regard policy makers and their staff members as friends with whom he was pleased to share important information and insights. Consequently, he developed a wide circle of loyal friends and personal relationships that
extended far outside the professional realm. One of his core principles was that friendships require time, effort and staying in touch, and he was a master of that approach to both his personal and professional relationships.
Above all, Connell’s devotion to Shay and their daughters was always in full view. If you wanted to bring a smile to Connell’s face, simply mention Shay, one of his beloved daughters or those most-perfect-ever grandsons.
Connell served on the Boards of Trustees of Brevard College, Holy Innocents Episcopal School, The Little White House Foundation, Jekyll Island Foundation, Friends of Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites, and Smithgall Woods Foundation, among other civic and charitable organizations, including Gridiron Secret Society and Leadership Georgia.
Connell’s dedication to Georgia Southern University continued throughout his life. He was named Alumnus of the Year by the Alumni Association and served as Chair and a long-time member of the Georgia Southern University Foundation Board of Trustees.
He and Shay were faithful and active members of Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Atlanta for more than four decades. After 40-plus years in the Atlanta neighborhoods of Garden Hills, Londonberry, and Brookhaven, Connell and Shay moved to Shay’s hometown of Hendersonville, North Carolina.
Connell is survived by his wife Shay and their daughters, Ali Malone (Charles) and Jenna Brown (Austin); grandsons, Stafford Brown and Lyles Brown; brother, Mark Stafford (Jean); brother-in-law, Powers English (Linda); nieces and nephews, Mary Connell Stafford, Adam Stafford (Sarah), Drake English (Ashley); great-nieces and nephew, Maryn Stafford, Beckton Stafford, Whelon English; and godson, Jack Hodges. He was predeceased by his brother, Terry Stafford.
The Memorial Service will take place on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023, at 2:00 p.m. at St. James Episcopal Church, 766 N. Main St., Hendersonville, NC, 28792. The Church will Livestream the service at https://www.facebook.com/stjameshvl A Celebration of Life for family and friends will be held on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2023, from 4:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. at The Capital City Club at Brookhaven in Atlanta.
In lieu of flowers, donations in Connell’s memory may be made to the Stafford Scholars Honors Program Scholarship at Georgia Southern University, 1332 Southern Dr., Statesboro, GA 30458, or to the fund for the establishment of the Meditation Chapel at St. James Episcopal Church, 766 N Main St., Hendersonville, NC 28792. The family wishes to express their sincere gratitude to Connell’s caregivers as well as the nursing staff with Four Seasons Hospice for their compassion and support.
Church Street Funeral & Cremation of Hendersonville NC is honored to be serving the Stafford Family.