“Lamar McDonald was a kind person; he gave good advice, and he woke up every morning determined to make things better.”
This is how Bruce Martin, the president of Meyer and Rosenbaum, Inc. and longtime friend, describes Mr. McDonald, who passed away July 13 at 94.
Services for Mr. McDonald were held Monday at Poplar Springs Drive Baptist Church with Dr. John Temple and Dr. Bill McDonald officiating. Burial followed at Magnolia Cemetery with Robert Barham Family Funeral Home entrusted with arrangements.
Born in Meridian, Mr. McDonald joined the insurance company in 1955 after working for eight years with F.W. Williams State Agency. While his 60 years of work in the insurance industry was certainly a source of personal pride, he is remembered as much or more for his love of family and community.
“He was a great citizen, a champion guy, a good example for all,” Martin said.
A U.S. Navy veteran, Mr. McDonald continued his loyalty by pouring himself into making sure Naval Air Station-Meridian would survive when the the federal government began scaling back military bases across the country.
When the first round of Base Realignment and Closures (BRAC) started in the early 1990s, Mr. McDonald began rallying support to keep the base open.
Beginning in 1991, and continuing in the 1993 and 1995 BRAC rounds, McDonald, at 63, was appointed chairman of the Navy Meridian Team. In 2004, he traveled to Washington D.C as a member of the Mississippi Military Communities Council, a position appointed by then-Governor Haley Barbour.
“[McDonald] was one of the strongest local advocates for NAS Meridian throughout the sixty-year history of the installation,” said Capt. Timothy B. Moore, Commanding Officer of NAS Meridian.
In addition to his leadership in support of NAS Meridian, Mr. McDonald served on the city council from 1965-1973. He ably managed work and civic duty as he received the coveted James Henry Johnson Memorial Award in 1979 for his contributions to the insurance industry. The award, presented for distinguished service, has only been given 46 times since it was established.
Scott Gray, owner of Insurance Solutions of Mississippi, explains that in his more than 25 years of attending Independent Insurance Agents of Mississippi meetings, the award is bestowed only to “the greats.”
“There were many years this award was not given, but I remember [McDonald] receiving this recognition,” Gray recalled. “He was a stand-up guy; he always wanted to do good for his community.”
‘We will miss him at our table’
Outside of work, Mr. McDonald was a loyal friend. His core group of friends, known as “The Lacy Bottom Marching and Chowder Society,” met every Friday at Weidmann’s Restaurant to discuss current events.
What began as a group of 15 community leaders meeting for lunch soon evolved into a tradition that lasted for more than 40 years.
Larry Dudley, Mr. McDonald’s friend and a member of the group, says Tony Sansone put the group together, along with Rep. G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery.
“We would sit at our same round table every week,” Dudley recalled. “Gene Damon, Billy Fort, Bill Johnson, Judge Jerry Mason, Tom Maynor, Bobby Parker, Ronnie Walton, Robert Ward, Fred Wile, and David Williams. Some of these greats have already passed on, and now, [McDonald] joins them. We will miss him at our table.”
“He was a great man, loyal to his family and his church. He was very active in the community. He kept his office at Meyer and Rosenbaum until 2020,” Dudley added.
Wilhelmine Damon, Gene Damon’s widow, remembers those Friday roundtables.
“He would come home from those Friday lunches, and we wives would always want to know what had been the topic of discussion that day. [McDonald] was a true and loyal friend, a great man.”
Mr. McDonald served as the longest-standing treasurer of Poplar Springs Drive Baptist Church, a position he held for 50 years.
McDonald’s wife of 70 years, Betty, his daughter, Missy McDonald Jennings, his son, Bill, and his youngest daughter, Molly McDonald Matheny, his grandchildren and great grandchildren, were always his utmost priority.
“We are just so proud he was our daddy,” Jennings said. “He was a friend to the Navy Base, and he was truly dedicated in his love of God and his love for our family. I remember him taking us out to the Base to see the Blue Angels or to see President Nixon when he came to Meridian. Later on, we would sometimes go with him on Wednesdays to his Rotary Club meetings. Being involved in his community was very important to him.”
Dr. Bill McDonald agrees.
“He taught me so many life lessons that are worthy of emulation, and he taught me not by lecture, but by example,” he said. “I watched him live his life, and I learned by watching him. He loved making people feel good; he always had a handshake and a smile, whether he was meeting a dignitary or a stranger. Even in the hospital this last month, he would reach out his hand for a doctor or nurse who came in his room.”
“Today’s culture is focused on bumper stickers and t-shirts; our dad didn’t need those things,” Dr. McDonald added. “My faith is strong today because of my Dad. In writing his eulogy, it was hard to sum up a lifetime in just a few short minutes.”