Prominent Memphian George Cates killed in plane crash

MERCER, Tenn. — Prominent Memphis businessman George Cates was killed in a plane crash Monday.

The Madison County Sheriff’s Office said the plane was reported missing early Monday morning.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland issued a statement on Twitter following the news.

“So saddened by this news. George Cates gave so much to Memphis, including creating a successful business and leading the efforts on the creation of @overtonpark Conservancy. My prayers are with his family,” Mayor Strickland said.

The plane was later located in a field near the 200 block of Sturdivant Crossing Road in Mercer, Tom Mapes with the sheriff’s office said.

The plane only had one occupant, the pilot, and was a single-engine plane.

The FAA has been notified.

The plane took off from Memphis and was headed to Asheville, North Carolina, officials said.

Cates was a successful businessman, the founder and chairman of Mid America Apartment Communities. He was also a devoted philanthropist and patron of the arts.

George Cates created a fortune in building apartments. By the time he retired from Mid America Apartment Communities, his company had more than 101,000 apartments in 16 states.

Cates was also a philanthropist and civic leader.

Pierre Landaiche III, the CEO of UMRF Ventures, Inc. knew him well.

“He embodied that saying that to whom much is given much is expected. That was George Cates,” Landaiche said.

“I am very shocked and sad to hear about George’s passing today,” Kevin Kane, the President & CEO of Memphis Tourism said. “Just a terrible loss for Memphis and Shelby County.”

Friends of the late George Cates told FOX13 he chaired countless civic boards from the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis, the Rotary Club, to the Botanic Garden. Some of his most cherished organizations were the Memphis Symphony and the Overton Park Conservancy.

“He was at every concert. He loved music. He loved great music. The great works that we played seemed to make him happy” said Peter Abell, president and CEO of The Memphis Symphony.

A spokesperson with the National Transportation Board said an investigator will be at the crash site Tuesday. They will collect radar data, air traffic communication, weather information, maintenance records of the plane, and medical records of Cates as part of the investigation.

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