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Ray Hugh MacNair

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Ray Hugh MacNair Obituary
Ray Hugh MacNair died peacefully at home of ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) on May 22, at the age of 74 . He is survived by his wife, Nancy MacNair, and children Doug MacNair (wife Valerie and sons David and Jason), Rebecca MacNair-Semands (husband Steve and daughter Allison) and Kathleen MacNair. He was preceded in death by his son Steve MacNair in October, 2011. Ray is also survived by his sister, Tina Hair, and his brother, Wilmer MacNair.

Dr. Ray MacNair loved being surrounded by family, hiking in the woods, and using his silly sense of humor to bring joy to those around him. He was avid exerciser, running the Peachtree Road Race for over 25 years, and had become a vegan in the last several years out of respect for animals and the environment. He had been working with Hispanic day laborers to ensure fair wages and was often thanked for his unrelenting efforts related to environmental and social justice. A relative recently wrote, "Wisdom, love, and strong convictions have been passed down to children and grandchildren, a tribute to a life given for others."

Ray MacNair spent his life as a social activist. He joined the Social Work faculty at the University of Georgia in 1975 and taught community organizing for 28 years, including environmental justice and sustainable development. He served as a consultant on Community and Area Development for 18 years. He also served as President of the national Association for Community Organizing and Social Administration for two years. Upon his retirement in 2003 as faculty member emeritus, Ray founded and co-chaired the Economic Justice Coalition, a local organization focused on living wages, health benefits, quality jobs, rights of workers, and governmental decision making. In 2001, he was awarded the Athens NAACP award for his career of community activism.

Prior to moving to Athens, he joined the faculty of Tuskegee University in 1967 and developed a BSW Program in 1969, heading that program until 1975. He and Nancy raised four children, two of them adopted and biracial, in a Black neighborhood in Tuskegee, an experience of warmth and joy.

Ray's PhD in Social Work and Sociology was at the University of Michigan. His first "human rights" experience was the MLK March in Detroit, one month before the Washington March, 1963, where MLK first presented the "I have a Dream" speech.

Ray had a history of working internationally, as well. He spent a summer in northern Germany in 1957, working with Latvian refugees from the Second World War. Graduating from Oberlin College in 1959, Ray and Nancy got married and immediately moved to South India for two years as part of a cultural exchange program teaching English.

Shortly before his death, Ray was asked to speak about his beliefs at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship and stated, "I believe that taking action is a spiritual journey when it is focused on promoting social justice…I cannot live without taking action on these issues."

A memorial service will be held at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 780 Timothy Road, at 3:30 pm on June 9th with Rev. Alison Eskildsen officiating. In lieu of flowers, donations may be given to the Economic Justice Coalition, P. O. Box 1225, Athens, GA 30603 (www.econjustice.org).

Lord & Stephens East is in charge of arrangements.

Published in Athens Banner-Herald on May 27, 2012
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