If there’s a “Pearly Gates Progress Edition,” you can be sure that “Doctor J” has already sold all the ads for it.
“We lost a dear friend and member of the family Monday,” said MDJ publisher Otis Brumby III on Tuesday. “I’m a better person, the MDJ is a better company and Cobb County is a better community because of Jay Whorton. He was always, always upbeat. His unique spirit and personality was infectious. I’m going to miss my good friend.”
Added MDJ GM Lee B. Garrett, “Jay was like a second father to me and my sisters and brother. He was one of the most optimistic people I have ever known. His smile and enthusiasm were unforgettable and he always ended a conversation, ‘Happy Day.’”
Whorton was known for his ever-present smile, whether riding the new roller coaster at the North Georgia State Fair in his early ’80s, singing hymns at Marietta First Methodist Church, bantering with buddies at his beloved Marietta Rotary Club or digging into a big plate of of barbecue at just about anywhere.
“He was the most positive, optimistic person I’ve ever met,” said U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) “He sold the benefits (of his product) like nobody I’ve ever seen, and boy, he loved his lovely wife Laura.”
“Jay’s spirit and enthusiasm was contagious,” recalled Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin. “Jay brought joy and positive results to everything he did, whether marketing, civic work, church or friendship. His quick, direct wit kept one both on their toes and on their heels.”
Joseph Perry (Jay) Whorton was born in Dutton, Ala., and grew up on a farm outside Pisgah on Sand Mountain, Ala., during the Great Depression.
His brother Lionel, 10 years older than Jay, was killed in Belgium in November 1944 on the eve of the Battle of the Bulge. Then at 6 p.m. that Christmas Day, Jay’s father dropped dead of a heart attack.
Jay’s mother, Mary Ida Whorton, soon sold the farm and they moved to Mobile, Ala., where another brother, Lauron (14 years older than Jay), worked in the shipyards, which were booming thanks to the war. But Lauron died of typhoid fever not long after they arrived, and so Jay and his mother moved back to Pisgah. The family eked by on the income from Lionel’s Army insurance policy and the kindness of friends.
Upon graduating from high school Whorton earned scholarships to play basketball, baseball and tennis at Jacksonville State University, and later was named as one of the school’s “100 Greatest Athletes.” He also earned a degree in Physical Education and his Phi Beta Kappa key.
His skill with bat and glove earned him a Minor League contract with the New York Yankees, but soon gave that up in favor of life with new bride, Laura Arrington Whorton, and a new career in newspapering. After jobs in Scottsboro and Fort Payne, Ala., and 12 years as ad manager of the Times Free Press in Carroll County, he was hired by publisher Otis A. Brumby Jr. to run the advertising for the Marietta Daily Journal and Neighbor Newspapers.
The Whortons and young sons Mike, Tim and Rick needed a house to live in. So Brumby steered them to a 27-year-old real estate agent who’d just opened a Northside Realty office on Roswell Street, future Sen. Isakson.
“I remember meeting Jay and Laura in the office that day,” Isakson recalled on Tuesday. “I have never met, before or since, a more affable, positive individual in all my wife. He was a consummate, born salesman. Never met a stranger.”
So what was behind Whorton’s success as a salesman?
“Jay knew that the secret to selling is to sell the benefits — the benefits that will help you sell your product,” Isakson said. “He was the best salesman I’ve ever known. He’d come in and say, ‘I’ve got something that’s going to help you.’”
Services for Jay Whorton will be at 11 a.m. Friday at First United Methodist Church.