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James Alexander McNair of Laurinburg and Montreat, NC, died on January 31, 2024 after a full life of 87 years. He was born in Laurinburg on December 11, 1936 to John Franklin McNair, Jr. and Martha Fairley McNair. “Big Jim,” as he was affectionately known, was a great man with a big heart and a big spirit whose passing leaves a big hole in the lives of all who loved him.
Jim was educated in Laurinburg public schools, McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tennessee and at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The outbreak of the Suez Crisis led him to enlist in the US Navy during college and he proudly served as a Quartermaster in the 6th fleet in the Mediterranean Sea. Returning to Chapel Hill, he studied banking and met his future wife, Marion Hays, on a blind date.
Jim and Marion married on October 14, 1960 and began life together in Laurinburg where their two children were born. Jim assumed leadership roles in a range of family businesses and in the community. He was vice president of The State Bank, president of the NC Young Bankers Association and later became president of McNair Automotive Company. He was a founding board member of Marlboro Academy, president of the Laurinburg Jaycees, active in the Chamber of Commerce, and a youth group leader at Laurinburg Presbyterian Church. He and Marion were founding members of the RSVP Supper Club which continues to this day.
The family moved to Raleigh in 1974 where they lovingly restored a historic home in Hayes-Barton neighborhood. They joined White Memorial Church, enjoyed social events with the Sphinx Club and built lifetime friendships. In 1981, Jim was given an opportunity to lead business development for Charlotte, NC-based McDevitt & Street Company. The family quickly acclimated to their new home where Jim was an active member of Quail Hollow Country Club, served on the board of Sharon Towers and led many Rotary community service projects. Always generous with his time and talents, Jim was awarded the Order of The Long Leaf Pine by Gov. James Hunt in 1980. Jim and Marion retired to Pinehurst in 1997. Wherever they lived across North Carolina, a constant was summers spent in the mountain community of Montreat where their family has gathered for three generations.
Big Jim lived a full and happy life with many passions, including airplanes, boats and vehicles of all kinds, and hunting as a member of the Old North State Game Club. He enjoyed celebrating his Scottish heritage as a member and past president of the St. Andrews Society of North Carolina. Jim admired, collected, refurbished and traded automobiles all his life, was famous for his pit master skills and proudly competed in the BBQ Nationals in Memphis. He especially loved storytelling, oyster roasts, Montreat, his grandchildren, Christmas and the Tarheels. Jim’s greatest joys were family and good friends.
In addition to his parents, Jim was preceded in death by his sister Jane McNair Bell, brother John F. McNair III and his wife of 63 years, Marion Hays McNair, who just died two weeks prior on January 17. He is survived by his children, Jane McNair Marr (Albert) of Wilmington, NC and Alex Fairley McNair (Mary John) of Greenville SC; and four precious grandchildren, Stewart A. Marr, Hays W. Marr, Walter M. Marr and Mary Elizabeth McNair; along with cherished nieces and nephews and their families.
A graveside ceremony will be held on Friday, February 16th at 11:00 am at the Old Hillside Cemetery in Laurinburg, NC followed by a 12:00 pm memorial service to celebrate the life of James Alexander McNair at Laurinburg Presbyterian Church. The family will receive visitors after the memorial service in the fellowship hall.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to Laurinburg Presbyterian Church, 600 West Church Street, Laurinburg, NC 28352, or the Montreat Conference Center Wilderness Maintenance Fund, PO Box 969, Montreat, NC 28757.
Bumgarner Funeral Home is serving the McNair family.
Online condolences may be made at www.bumgarnerfunerals.com.