(CBS News) Chick-fil-A's public relations head died Friday amid an ongoing controversy over the fast food chain CEO's views on same-sex marriage.
In a statement, Chick-fil-A announced that Don Perry, vice president of public relations, died suddenly Friday morning.
"Don was a member of our Chick-fil-A family for nearly 29 years," the statements said. "For many of you in the media, he was the spokesperson for Chick-fil-A. He was a well-respected and well-liked media executive in the Atlanta and University of Georgia communities, and we will all miss him."
"Our thoughts and prayers are with his family," the statement added.
A company spokesman, working with a third-party public relations agency, could not confirm reports he had died of a heart attack.
Perry, who joined Chick-fil-A in 1983 as the Atlanta-based company's first public relations profession, leaves behind a wife, three sons and a grandson.
According to his official company bio, he was responsible for "developing and overseeing external communications and publicity programs in support of key company initiatives."
Chick-fil-A flap sees calls for action from both sides of same-sex marriage debate
Chick-fil-A's political grilling
The news comes as Chick-fil-A faces increasing calls for boycotts among politicians and activists after chief executive Dan Cathy expressed opposition to same-sex marriage.
"I think we're inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, you know, 'We know better than you as to what constitutes marriage,'" Cathy said in an interview on The Ken Coleman Show last month.
Cathy has talked about his socially conservative leanings before, but his recent comments became a catalyst for pro-LGBT activism.
Although some conservatives defended Chick-fil-A for sticking to Christian values, the criticism was much more overwhelming and the company's public relations worked to control the damage.
By Friday, Chick-fil-A's Facebook page and website were full of defensive statements. It denied accusations it created fake Facebook profiles and claimed it had voluntarily withdrawn from Jim Henson's Kids' Meal Puppets because of safety concerns. The company also went out of its way to insist it doesn't discriminate.
"The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect - regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender," the company said in a statement on July 19.