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Sep. 16, 2019
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Georgia tourism, film pioneer, Lanier resident Ed Spivia passes away

By Pamela A. Keene 
 
He laid the foundations of the tourism and film industry in Georgia as far back as the late 1960s, and his influence is still felt across the country. On July 29, Lake Lanier resident Ed Spivia passed away at his home with his family by his side, after a long battle with Lewy Body Dementia.
 
“I have been so proud of Ed and the recognition he’s been getting,” said his wife of 17 years, Barbara, who with him founded the original Lakewood Antiques Market in Atlanta and the Lakewood 400 Antique Market in Cumming. Spivia’s sons Rhett and Greg recently became partners in the business. “Ed loved Georgia with his whole heart and was so committed to the state.” 
 
A graduate of Young Harris College, he moved to Atlanta in 1965 to work at WGST Radio. Three years later he joined the Georgia Department of Industry and Trade, now the Georgia Department of Economic Development, where he then developed the Georgia Film Commission under then-Governor Jimmy Carter. The commission helped attract more than 200 films to the state over the next decade, including “Smokey and the Bandit,” “The Longest Yard” and the “The Big Chill.”
 
President Carter tapped Spivia to lead the Georgia Tourism Division and during his seven years there, Spivia and the division grew tourism from 27th in the country to 7th, second in the Southeast only to Florida.
 
In 1983, Spivia was asked by former Macon Mayor Buck Melton and Macon businessman Ben Porter to lead their business Filmworks USA, bringing even more films to Georgia. He also helped create the Lakewood Antiques Market on the same site and worked with Universal Studios to build Lakewood Amphitheater.
 
Spivia and Barbara, working with Diane Dominick, moved the market to Cumming. Then-Governor Sonny Perdue asked Spivia to be part of the committee that developed incentives for filmmakers to choose Georgia. 
 
Over his career, he received numerous awards and recognitions, including the Georgia Production Partnership’s recognition for “his incomparable leadership and support of the Georgia Entertainment Industry” in 2010. In 2017, he received the Georgia Entertainment Gala & Awards “Outstanding Contribution to the Georgia Entertainment Industry” award.
 
“In spite of his highly touted contributions to Georgia’s economy and culture, he always claimed that this finest accomplishments were his three children, his marriage to Barbara and their blended family,” his obituary read. “He loved nothing more than spending time with them, especially on Lake Lanier,” it continued. 
 
“Ed was really proud of Georgia today, in the tourism, music and movie industry,” Barbara said. “We have simply been overwhelmed by the outpouring from so many people. I know he’s going to live on through all the things that he changes and brought to the state. And he did it all with absolutely nothing to gain; he just loved Georgia.”

Posted online 8.29.19
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