Former Columbus GA Dayton Preston executive has passed away
Dayton Preston was a small man with a giant presence.
“Dayton wasn’t very tall, but we all admired him,” former Columbus mayor and Superior Court judge Bobby Peters said of the former baseball and Chamber of Commerce executive died Thursday at the age of 90.
Those who knew Preston well remembered his enthusiasm for baseball and the city of Columbus, and how dedicated he was to promoting both.
For years, he managed the Columbus Astros baseball team which was part of the Southern League, before the team moved. Preston’s main investors were doctors at the Hughston Clinic, and although the team lost money, Preston continued for as long as he could.
“He was the glue that held it all together,” said Columbus city councilor Glenn Davis, who was among the players Preston helped coach.
“He took me under his wing,” Davis said, joking that being under Preston’s wing was a challenge as he is 6ft 3in tall and Preston was maybe 5ft tall.
“He’s probably one of the reasons I’m in Columbus today,” Davis said, later adding, “He was like a father figure to everyone… He played a very important role in character building of players. “
He had standards he expected players to live up to, Davis said, and that meant behaving when you came to Columbus. “Don’t embarrass my city. I love my city. Behave your best, ”was the message from Preston, the advisor said, adding,“ Dayton could make your career or ruin your career in one call. “
Preston’s dedication to Columbus was evident when he went to work for the chamber, promoting the city to businesses and working to recruit manufacturers overseas, Davis said: “No one can package and sell Columbus. like Dayton Preston.
Mike Gaymon, chairman of the chamber from 1988 to 2017, said Preston helped bring Japanese manufacturers here.
He recalled that Preston did not speak Japanese, but became close to one of Matsushita’s executives. “He found a way to know him,” despite the language barrier, Gaymon said. “It was the first international company that we had integrated in a long time.
Preston took up executive fishing, and the guest was casting when he accidentally threw Preston’s rod and reel into the pond, a story Preston would later relate with relish.
He was known to entertain his friends with his anecdotes. “You could sit and listen to his stories for hours,” Davis said, adding, “Dayton loved people and people loved him.”
Gaymon said, “He knew everyone in Muscogee County.” He maintained this herd behavior after he retired from the chamber and then took a part-time job as a bailiff at the Columbus Government Center.
When a friend heard Preston took on the job, he joked that “he didn’t know they made costumes that small,” Gaymon said.
Preston joked about his size without offense, Gaymon said: “Dayton always loved humor, but if you gave him a job to do, he did.”
Peters said: “No matter what happened, he was always upbeat… He was great in everyone’s eyes.”