A lifelong resident of Sandersville, he was employed by or led the short line for more than 60 years. Tarbutton served on many boards of directors, including that of the Central of Georgia Railway, and on advisory boards for the Southern Railway and Norfolk Southern.
Tarbutton also was the longest-serving member and two-time chairman of the Georgia Ports Authority, service noted in comments this week by Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, one of four governors from both political parties to appoint Tarbutton to the authority.
Deal said he considered Tarbutton a lifetime friend.
“His obituary will tell of his business acumen and give many examples of his community service” Deal told the Savannah (Ga.) Morning News, “which includes the time and expertise he devoted to the Georgia Ports Authority, to which I reappointed him in 2012.
“But to those of us who knew him, especially those of us from Sandersville, he was a real character — the kind of guy you always hope is sitting next to you at a dinner party. He was charming, funny and a loyal friend. When I decided in 2009 to run for governor, Hugh was one of the first people I called. Without hesitation he expressed his support and never once wavered. You never forget or fail to appreciate someone like that.”
A graduate of Emory University in Atlanta, he received the Emory Medal, the school’s highest alumni honor, in 2008.
A private funeral service will be held Saturday morning in Sandersville.