John McGee, former SNPA board member, dies at age 94


John Frampton McGee, 94, died on June 23 after a short period of declining health. Born in Charleston, S.C., Jan. 9, 1923, he was the son of Hall Thomas McGee and Gertrude Wyman Frampton McGee, and a former SNPA board member.  He was the father-in-law of former SNPA President Bern Mebane.

He was a graduate of the Charleston, S.C., public school system, and he graduated Davidson College in 1943. There, he was a member of Kappa Sigma fraternity, president of the Eumanean Literary Society, manager of the Track team and a Captain in the Army ROTC program.  After receiving his Army Commission at Ft. Benning, he was assigned to an Infantry division and sent to England. He landed at Utah Beach on June 12 and was then assigned to the 117th Infantry Regiment of the 30th Division. He served in combat from Normandy into Germany and was a proud participant in the successful effort to halt the SS Panzers at Stavelot, Belgium the week before Christmas, 1944. For his service, he was awarded two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star with two Clusters, five Campaign Stars, a presidential Unit Citation and French and Belgian Croix de Guerre with Silver Star. He was discharged as a Captain.

He returned to Charleston, S.C., where he began his media career at the Evening Post Publishing Company. He served in various capacities there for 15 years before becoming an executive with the State-Record Company of Columbia, S.C., serving until 1969, when he accepted the position of general executive with Knight Newspapers, Inc., in Miami.

He was recruited to Charleston, W.Va., in 1970 by Lyell Clay to become president of Clay Communications. By the time the company was sold in 1987, the company had grown from one newspaper to a holding company with five daily and three Sunday papers, along with four television stations. He served on the Board of directors of Thomson Newspapers until his retirement in 1990.

McGee served on the SNPA Board of Directors, and he was president of the state press associations of two states, South Carolina and West Virginia. His proudest professional accomplishment was being chosen twice for service on the Board of Directors of The Associated Press through national elections by his peers. 

The McGee's shared a passion for travel and education, which they generously instilled in children and grandchildren through shared experiences with family.

After his retirement, McGee and his beloved wife Ruth returned to Africa for an extended period to put their mutual interests into practice through the teaching of practical journalism skills to students at at the University of Nairobi in Kenya and, later, in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana. He drew on his experience and contacts throughout the United states to develop his own practical curriculum for study. Because of his efforts in journalism education and the development of a free press in Africa, he was chosen to be a poll-watcher in the historic 1994 election which resulted in the choice of former political prisoner Nelson Mandela as President.

Their efforts to promote a free press in developing countries also extended to Southeast Asia. In Thailand, he served on the Board of the Indochina Media Memorial Foundation. The McGee's sponsored a basic journalism textbook with the Foundation, and it was used by students in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Viet Nam and Myanmar.

The McGee's shared a strong faith in God and directed family and others by example to be good stewards of their time, talents and treasure. They established the McGee Foundation in Charleston, W.Va., in 1991, and were instrumental in philanthropic endeavors in the U.S., Africa and Asia, with a special emphasis on giving back to institutions in West Virginia like the Clay Center, WVU, and numerous other eleemosynary endeavors.

Davidson College was a favorite of the McGee's. He served on both the Board of Directors and the Board of Visitors, which he chaired, along with service on various committees. The couple endowed a Visiting professorship in Writing and the Directorship of the Dean Rusk Program.

McGee served as vice-chairman of the Charleston Area Medical Center and vice-chairman of the Clay Center, and was a member of the Board of Directors of the United Bank. He was a Rotarian and a member of the Cosmos Club, Edgewood Country Club and various other civic organizations.

He was a member of the Huguenot Society of South Carolina, reflecting his keen interest in his family's Colonial roots in New York and South Carolina.

He received Charleston's Spirit of the Valley Award for his lifetime of service to the people of the Kanawha Valley.

He is survived by two daughters from his first marriage to Ann Beverly Canby of Little Rock, Ark.: Beverly (Mrs. Archibald Hardy) of Saluda, N.C., and Cathy (Mrs. W. deBerniere Mebane) of Greenville, S.C., in addition to eight grandchildren: Perry Kinder Longno (Lance), Emory Kinder Wright (Jon), Will Mebane (Martha Corcoran), Harriet Mebane, John Mebane, Catharine Mebane Sturtevant (Drew), Jane Mebane Mobley, and Beverly Mebane Helms (Carter) and fourteen great-grandchildren. He is also survived by his cousin, counselor and best life-long friend Joseph H. (Peter) McGee and his wife Patti, of Charleston, S.C.

He was pre-deceased by his wife, Ruth Bauknight McGee, who was survived by one son, Charles Smedley (Sue) and one grand-daughter, Sara Jane Smedley.

A celebration of his life will be held on Sunday July 2, at 1:30 p.m. in a memorial service at First Presbyterian Church, Charleston, W.Va. The family will receive friends prior to the service beginning at 12:30 at the Church.

McGee, Mebane


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