Ron Pitkin, founder of independent publisher Cumberland House, died April 6. He was 79.

In 1983, Pitkin cofounded Nashville-based independent publisher Rutledge Hill Press, which went on to publish such bestselling books as Life’s Little Instruction Book and Aunt Bee’s Mayberry Cookbook.

Pitkin then founded Cumberland House in 1996. Also based in Nashville, the independent publisher became known for its history, cooking, fiction, and inspirational titles including the James Beard Award–winning cookbook Smokehouse Ham, Spoon Bread, and Scuppernong Wine and Gregory E. Lang’s series led by Why a Daughter Needs a Dad, a project Pitkin championed that went on to sell more than five million copies.

“Ron was sort of a quiet legend with a very big heart in the publishing business,” said Todd Stocke, senior v-p and editorial director at Sourcebooks, which acquired Cumberland House in 2008. “Simultaneously creative and deeply soulful, Ron could position books like few others. He truly had the every-person’s touch. We are proud to carry on his legacy, and we share our best wishes with his family and all those who loved him.”

In lieu of flowers, his family requests donations to a library or literacy charity of your choice.