TRULY A LION FOR LAGRANGE: Dr. Cliff Rainey leaves a legacy of kindness and loyalty

Published 10:15 am Friday, March 10, 2023

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Many people will always think of the late Dr. Cliff Rainey as LaGrange’s eye doctor. Rainey, 92, passed away Tuesday, March 7, having provided eye exams to countless men, women and children in LaGrange for generations.

While known for his vision work, Rainey was also crucial for the development of LaGrange.

Longtime friend and colleague Jane Fryer said she is heartbroken over the loss.

Fryer said Rainey was one of the original board members of the LaGrange Development Authority (LDA). She said Rainey was already on the board when she started working for the LDA and the Chamber of Commerce.

“I came into the Development Authority not knowing the first thing about what to do at the Chamber,” Fryer said. “[Rainey] was one of the first ones I met, along with Walt Lukken. They were my mentors.”

“I was scared. I got the job and thought, ‘What am I going to do?’ but Cliff and Walt and the others, we just had a close bond. They helped me and we were very successful,” Fryer said, explaining LaGrange was much different back then.

“Cliff was our entertainment person,” Fryer said. “Everyone had different jobs. Walt could relate to the prospects that were coming from out of town because he was not a native of LaGrange. He wasn’t from the south. I guess my job was trying to keep everything straight and coordinate and work with everybody.”

“We didn’t have a lot of nice restaurants in town back then so Cliff would take people to entertain them,” Fryer said. “Cliff opened his home for us to take [development] prospects to his home and have dinner with them because we needed the privacy. He just made everybody that came feel welcome and everybody just felt at home. He was just wonderful to work with.”

Fryer has since moved on from LaGrange and currently works as the president of the Meriwether County Development Authority. She said Rainey encouraged her to take the job.

“It was my intention to come over here and stay, maybe no more than five years, but I’ve been here 11 years,” Fryer said.

Fryer said Rainey had been the president of the chamber before she started working there.

“He was so proud of the chamber of commerce and more proud of how much has been accomplished for the chamber,” Fryer said.

At the time of his passing, Rainey was the oldest living former chamber president.

Rainey helped sell the City of LaGrange to developers for more than 60 years. His work on the development authority helped bring numerous businesses to LaGrange from the Walmart Distribution Center to Kimberly-Clark to Dow Jones, according to the LaGrange Troup Chamber of Commerce.

“The LaGrange Troup County Chamber of Commerce extends our condolences to the family and friends of Dr. Rainey. Dr. Rainey served as the Chairman of the Chamber Board of Directors in 1965. He was dedicated to bringing new industries to LaGrange and new members to the Chamber. His legacy will always be remembered,” said Chamber President Connie Hensler.

Rainey was also a big supporter of the Lions Club in LaGrange, who have taken on vision advocacy and support as one of their primary goals.

Rainey donated so much time, effort and money to help make sure vision screenings and glasses were available to those who needed them, said Past President Shane Frailey.

Frailey said Rainey was a devoted member of the Lions Club for more than 65 years.

“We do vision screenings and for local agencies, and he was always there for us. Anytime we had a special event, he was always giving,” Frailey said. “He was just a very giving person, and he always had a smile on his face.”

“Rainey was very loyal to the Lions Club, and he was loyal to the City of LaGrange. I think nobody will ever realize all that he did for LaGrange,” Frailey said.

For his efforts, last year Rainey was awarded a lifetime membership by the International Association of Lions Clubs.

“Dr. Rainey spent his life making LaGrange a better place. He was truly a lion of our community who worked in his profession, in his church, and alongside his friends and family to improve this city. As an early promoter of economic development and a champion of the chamber, his legacy is all around us. And he was one of the kindest men I knew,” said former LaGrange Mayor Jim Thornton.