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James Armstrong Mackay

Family-Placed Death Notice

James Armstrong Mackay, 85, a former Congressman and founding chairman of the Georgia Conservancy, died of congestive heart failure on July 2 in Chattanooga. Mr. Mackay moved to Atlanta with his family in 1934 and graduated from Druid Hills High School in 1936 and Emory University in 1940. At Emory, he served as president of the student body and was elected to Omicron Delta Kappa and DVS honorary societies. He was a member of the Kappa Alpha Order. He earned a degree from Emory Law School in 1947, graduating with honors and membership in the Order of the Coif. He later served as president of the Alumni Association and as a University Trustee. In 1986, Emory awarded Mr. Mackay an honorary Doctor of Laws degree during the University's sesquicentennial celebration. Mr. Mackay served in the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II, and received the Bronze Star for devotion to duty. After being admitted to the bar in 1946, Mr. Mackay established his law practice in Decatur, Ga. His professional commitments were geared toward improving the quality of life for Georgians. He organized Georgian Veterans for Majority Rule and began to work toward the elimination of the County unit system, which was one of the Jim Crow-Era laws that disenfranchised black voters, as well as voters in populous areas. After many years, these efforts resulted in firmly establishing the rule of One Person-One Vote. Mr. Mackay served with distinction in the Georgia Legislature for six terms. Active in the struggle for civil rights, he worked to keep the public schools of Georgia open during the heated debates over desegregation, and was one of thirty legislators who voted not to change the state flag to incorporate the segregationist-inspired Confederate battle emblem in 1956. Also during his term, he worked toward the acquisition of Stone Mountain as a State Park. In 1964, Mackay was elected to the U.S. Congress from Georgia's 4th District. During his term, he helped to pass the Voting Rights Act and secured the health care of senior citizens by voting for Medicare. He was also instrumental in procuring federal aid to education for The Fernbank Science Center and Planetarium. During Mr. Mackay's leadership with the Georgia Conservancy, the state acquired Sweetwater Creek and Panola Mountain State Parks. Mackay received the Conservancy's "Distinguished Conservationist Award" in 2001. Mr. Mackay's other civic interests included: The DeKalb Historical Society; the Decatur Civitan Club; Family Service Society (now Families First); the Georgia Mental Health Association; and the Atlanta Council for International Visitors. Among his many awards, he especially cherished the 1979 Rock Howard Award; the DeKalb Historical Society's "History Maker Award" and the 1984 "Mr. DeKalb Award." As the son of a Methodist minister, Mr. Mackay was active throughout his life in the United Methodist Church. At Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church, he served as chair of the Administrative Board, and as a high school Sunday School teacher. He represented the church at Annual, Jurisdictional and General Conferences. Working with other church leaders, he helped acquire the land for Simpsonwood Retreat Center and helped to develop the center as its first Chairman of the Board of Trustees. After retiring in 1988, Mr. Mackay moved to Rising Fawn in Dade County, Georgia and lived on Lookout Mountain. In 1996, the Dade County Chamber of Commerce named him "Citizen of the Year." His first wife, Mary Caroline Lee Mackay, and his son, James Edward Mackay, predeceased Mr. Mackay. He is survived by his wife, Sara Lee Jackson Mackay, of Signal Mountain, Tenn.; daughter, Kathleen Mackay, of Rising Fawn, Ga.; siblings, Donald M. Mackay and wife, Anna, of Lakeland, Fla.; John Leland Mackay, of Matthews, N.C.; Edward H. Mackay, of Decatur Ga. and Betty Mackay Asbury and husband, Frank, of Atlanta, Ga.; and by many nieces and nephews. A memorial service will be held on July 21, 2004 at 2:30 P.M. at Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church, Atlanta, Georgia. Those desiring to make a contribution may send it to: the Georgia Conservancy, 1776 Peachtree Street, N.W., Atlanta, GA 30309; The DeKalb History Center, 101 East Court Square, Decatur, GA 30030; or Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church, 1660 N. Decatur Road, Atlanta, GA 30307.
Published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on July 8, 2004
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