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Francis Lott, one of the chief architects of Douglas-Coffee County’s unprecedented economic boom that began in the late 1970s and continues to this day, has passed away after a brief but courageous battle with cancer. He was 87 years old.
It is difficult to put into words the impact Lott has made on this community. There hasn’t been a more prominent figure in Coffee County since the end of World War II than Francis Lott. Rural communities, particularly those in the Deep South, have always faced challenges, some of them seemingly insurmountable. Lott, along with a dedicated team of like-minded citizens, set out to make Douglas the exception rather than the rule. Their perseverance, ingenuity, creativity, and tireless work put Douglas and Coffee County on the statewide radar. He initiated a wave of economic prosperity for this community that Coffee County continues to ride.
Lott, a Douglas native who had been living on Amelia Island, Florida, for the last several years, graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1959 with a bachelor’s degree in architecture. After graduation, he served five years as an officer in the Air Force before returning to Douglas, where he joined Lott Builders Supply Company.
After nearly 20 years at Lott Builders, Lott formed Lott Properties Inc. and branched out into real estate development. Lott Properties grew into a successful and lucrative venture for Lott.
While he was building his career in Douglas, Lott became involved in local economic development efforts and remained a key figure in business and industry recruitment for the remainder of his life.
In the late 1970s, Lott championed a spec building for the purpose of bringing industry to Douglas. The gamble paid off and eventually, the Douglas-Coffee County Chamber of Commerce commissioned three more spec buildings to attract more opportunities to the community. During his career, Lott has developed everything from apartments to shopping centers, subdivisions, self-storage buildings, and more.
Lott has also been generous with his financial resources. In 2004, he established the local Economic Development Fund with a $1 million endowment to the Community Foundation of Coffee County. He also bought the old Belk building in downtown Douglas in 1998. Six years later, he did a complete renovation on the building, turning what was once an eyesore for downtown into one of the most striking buildings in Douglas. He renamed the building The Atrium and, in 2014, he gave the building to the Chamber of Commerce.
Lott and his wife, Diane, have endowed a $500,000 scholarship, dubbed the G. Wayne Clough Georgia Tech Promise Scholarship, to provide a debt-free education at Georgia Tech to students who could not afford to attend. Coffee County students are given priority when awarding these scholarships.
He received numerous awards and accolades over the course of his career, including the Dean Griffin Community Service Award (2018) from Georgia Tech, the Volunteer of the Year Award from the Georgia Economic Developers Association (one of only two people to receive that honor), and the Douglas-Coffee County Chamber of Commerce’s Garland Thompson Lifetime Achievement Award (2019). Lott has served on a number of boards and authorities, including chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, the Community Foundation of Coffee County, and Wiregrass Georgia Technical College Foundation. He was also a founding member of Douglas National Bank, a locally owned and operated bank in Coffee County that has grown into one of the most successful financial institutions in the community.
Lott spent over four decades helping transform his beloved community from a sleepy farming county into a lesson in economic opportunity that cities and towns across the state have attempted to emulate. All told, Lott has been responsible, either directly or indirectly, for creating nearly 4,000 jobs locally and providing a pathway to prosperity for thousands of people throughout the area.
Lott leaves to mourn his passing his wife, Diane; son, Jeffrey Lott and wife Joanne; son, Kirby Lott; daughter, Mary Jane Brady and husband Mike; step-daughter, Allyson Reeves Land and husband Ronnie; grandchildren, Andrew Lott, Paige Lott, Jack Brady, and Mary Kate Brady; and great-grandchildren Kirby Lott and Scarlett Lott. Funeral arrangements are incomplete at this time.
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