Former Georgia first lady Sandra Dunagan Deal has died at 80. 

She died Tuesday after a battle with cancer.

Gov. Brian Kemp announced her death from his Twitter account early Tuesday evening.

As the wife of Georgia's 82nd governor, Nathan Deal, Sandra Deal served as the first lady of Georgia from 2011 to 2019.

She was an education advocate and former public school language arts teacher.


Growing up in North Georgia

Sandra Deal was born in Gainesville, Ga., in 1942.

Both her parents were educators.

She graduated from Georgia College & University in Milledgeville, receiving her bachelor's degree in elementary education in 1963 and her master's degree in elementary education in 1968.

Deal met her husband on a blind date when they were college students. The couple married in 1966 and have four children and six grandchildren. 

She taught in the Hall County School System for 15 years. 


Her impact as first lady

During her tenure as first lady, Sandra Deal traveled the state as an educator, author, historian, volunteer and "forever learner."

In 2015, she co-authored a book, Memories of the Mansion, with two professors from Kennesaw State University, Dr. Catherine Lewis and Dr. Jennifer Dickey.

Deal also volunteered as a docent at the Governor’s Mansion, where she shared her knowledge of the mansion's furniture, artwork and architecture.

She hoped to introduce more Georgians to community service programs and volunteer opportunities through “With a Servant’s Heart," a statewide initiative.

But reading and literacy were the true heart of her public service.

She served as a co-chair of the Georgia Literacy Commission, which hosted a series of symposiums to examine and improve multigenerational low literacy rates.

She was involved with “Read Across Georgia Month" and partnered with the Get Georgia Reading Campaign, an initiative to bring students to grade-level reading status by the end of the third grade.

Most notably, she made appearances at 800 schools and pre-K programs, reading to students in all of Georgia’s 159 counties and 181 school districts.

On Nov. 30, 2018, she completed her 1,000th school visit, sharing her passion for books with kids.

"I’ve immensely enjoyed reading to students on my visits, as teaching children to love reading gives them the confidence to learn on their own far into the future," she wrote on her Facebook page.


GPB Education was there when Sandra Deal read a book to her 1000th school in Georgia during her time as first lady in 2018. This video was created to mark the momentous occasion.

Credit: GPB Education

Her civic life

Deal served as a chairwoman of the Georgia Children’s Cabinet, which brought together community leaders, philanthropists, educators, and business stakeholders to improve outcomes for children and families, and the Georgia Older Adults Cabinet, which addressed policy matters related to aging and brought awareness to the welfare of older Georgians. 

She also served on the board of trustees for Georgia College, her alma mater.