Former Fort Payne City Clerk Jim McGee died Friday at the age of 74.
McGee served the community from City Hall for 27 years, retiring in 2011. He was also the former news editor at The Times-Journal and a co-owner of the Northeast Alabamian newspaper. Before that, McGee worked as a history teacher, social worker and Medicaid specialist for the state, clerk for the DeKalb County Commission, and co-owned a hosiery mill.
Graveside services were Monday morning at Glenwood Cemetery, a city property that he helped develop in his role as city clerk.
“Jim was extremely honest and dedicated to his service,” said former Fort Payne Mayor David Stout, who took office as McGee was appointed to the clerk role.
“He was a great public servant to the city of Fort Payne. He was extremely intelligent and very important in moving Fort Payne forward. All he ever wanted was for Fort Payne to be on the right path, and he worked hard to make sure that happened during his time as clerk.”
Former Mayor Bill Jordan agreed McGee was “a very important factor in the growth and development of Fort Payne. He was a great city employee. He never got the credit he deserved for what he did for this city.”
Former Ninth Circuit Judge Randall Cole recalled when McGee served as the court administrator.
“Jim was the first person to hold that position. During that time, the Judith Ann Neelly case was going on. There was so much attention and national media with that case, and Jim was a tremendous help to the court system during that time. His death is a great loss for our community,” Cole said.
McGee was notable for his kindness, a quality that served him well in dealing with the public.
“Words cannot express the sadness and grief felt by those who were fortunate to call Jim a friend,” said current City Clerk Andy Parker. “Jim retired in 2011, and I was appointed to the position of city clerk at that time. I did not replace Jim– no one could do that. He was, and is, a giant in the world of city clerks. His knowledge was broad and deep, and he had experienced just about anything a clerk could imagine. He was dearly loved and will be greatly missed.”
City Councilman Johnny Eberhart also served alongside McGee. He said, “Jim was a very smart and dedicated public servant. He loved his hometown and its history. I had the privilege of working with him for several years before his retirement. He will be missed by many, and I am proud to have called him my friend.”
“Jim McGee had a tremendous impact on the city,” said Russell Gulley of the Arts in Education program. “He was always supportive of the arts, serving on the original board of directors for the Big Wills Arts Council, giving his time and coordinating for the city. Jim's interest and knowledge in music made him an excellent sounding board in developing and evaluating public programs, such as the original Radiovisions. His knowledge of the community and our traditions made his advice even more meaningful.”
His service to community extended beyond government as well. DeKalb Tourism President John Dersham noted McGee was a long-term member of the tourism board.
“Jim will be missed by all of us,” Dersham said.
The 1963 graduate of Fort Payne High School had a deep love for the city.
McGee’s final act to express that love was to ask that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Fort Payne Main Street organization, which is working to further develop the city’s growth. Donations can be mailed to P.O. Box 680405, Fort Payne, AL 35968 or by visiting fortpaynemainstreet.org/give.
– Times-Journal President and Publisher Tricia Dunne contributed to this article.