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Mary Beth Busbee, former First Lady of Georgia, dies

George and Mary Beth Busbee receive calls from well-wishers on Primary election night after he beat Bert Lance for a runoff with Lt. Gov. Lester Maddox in 1975.

George and Mary Beth Busbee receive calls from well-wishers on Primary election night after he beat Bert Lance for a runoff with Lt. Gov. Lester Maddox in 1975.

ATLANTA -- Funeral services for Mary Beth Busbee, the widow of former Georgia Gov. George Busbee and a former Albanian, will be conducted today at Parkway Baptist Church in Duluth.

The Crowell Brothers Peachtree Chapel Funeral Home in Norcross confirms that Mrs. Busbee died on Saturday. She was 85.

She married George Busbee in 1949, when he was a law student at the University of Georgia. They moved to Albany in 1952, where they resided until moving into the governor's mansion in 1975.

Her husband, who promised voters to be a "workhorse not a showhorse" as the 77th governor of the state, died in 2004.

A survivor of breast cancer, Mrs. Busbee was active in volunteer services, focusing on cultural and health-related efforts.

Born in Ruston, La., on Feb. 16, 1927, Mary Elizabeth Talbot was the sixth child of a country doctor. She graduated from Louisiana Tech University with a bachelor of science degree, majoring in biological sciences, and did graduate work in the pathology department at Charity Hospital of Louisiana in New Orleans.

Mrs. Busbee is the mother of Beth Kindt (John), Jan Curtis (Carlton), George Busbee, Jr. (Tammy), and Jeff Busbee (Kelly.)

Survivors include 13 grandchildren and seven great grandchildren. Voted Albany's "Woman of the Year" in 1975, Mrs. Busbee was active in numerous volunteer services, focusing on cultural and health-related efforts. A breast cancer survivor of 40 years, she was active in the work of the American Cancer Society.

After her husband became governor, she continued her involvement in this cause, producing a cookbook "Mary Beth's Sampler," which benefited the Georgia Division of the American Cancer Society. In addition to serving as honorary chair of the Georgia Division of the American Cancer Society, Mrs. Busbee was instrumental in the establishment of the first Ronald McDonald House in Atlanta for young cancer patients. Her other community involvement included serving as honorary chair of the "Save the Fox" campaign, working with the Mothers' March Against Birth Defects, the Lung Association of Georgia, and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

During the eight years that her husband served as governor, Mrs. Busbee actively promoted volunteerism throughout the state. Mrs. Busbee and her daughter, Jan, co-authored a cookbook, "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," in 1985, about entertaining at the governor's mansion. The book contains menus, recipes, and anecdotes about the many guests who were entertained at the mansion during the Busbee administration.

In 1985, Gov. and Mrs. Busbee were instrumental in starting a church which later became Parkway Baptist Church in Duluth, where they lived after he left office in 1983. Initially meeting in the Busbee's living room, the church eventually moved to its current location in North Fulton County. The Busbees were active members of Parkway Baptist Church until their deaths.