William Gray McGee, 82, a former Chief Executive Officer of Piedmont Airlines and one of the pioneers of the modern airline industry, passed away Saturday, November 22, 2008.
He was born in Winston-Salem, NC on January 18, 1926 to the late William Claude and Ollie May Tally McGee.
Mr. McGee is a former Navy pilot, having trained during World War II with the Naval Aviation Cadet Program. He entered the Navy in 1943, and upon his discharge in 1947, joined Piedmont.
He was one of the first employees hired by Piedmont’s founder, Thomas H. Davis, and progressed through the ranks of Piedmont becoming senior vice president for marketing in 1979. Often cited as a “low-key, soft spoken executive”, under his leadership, he guided the functions of marketing, advertising, sales, and scheduling at Piedmont as the airline grew to over 22,000 employees. He retired from Piedmont in 1988 as the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, after 41 years of service.
During his distinguished aviation career, he received numerous honors and awards. One of his proudest accomplishments was serving three times as the President of the Air Traffic Conference of America. He was also a member of numerous Boards and organizations, including the Board of Directors of the First Flight Foundation and the First Flight Centennial Commission.
His passion was aviation but he was also an avid golfer and boater. He was a former member of Highland Presbyterian Church, Winston-Salem, NC and attended the University of Iowa and Cornell University, where he studied business and labor management.
He is survived by his wife, Shirley; daughters Sherri McGee and partner Kris Aulenbach of Hyattsville, MD, Debbie Hunter of Winston-Salem, Tami Koury and husband Ernie, of Burlington, NC and his son Monty Thompson and Lou, of Christiansburg, VA; six grandchildren, Gray and Catie Hunter, Ern, Elizabeth, and Lauren Koury, and Ellie Thompson; brother, Charles McGee of Springfield, MO, and sister, Bertha Brewer of Stokesdale.
A memorial service was held at St. Mark’s Church of Burlington on November 25, 2008. Memorial contributions can be made to Hospice & Palliative Care Center of Alamance-Caswell, 914 Chapel Hill Road, Burlington, NC 27215.
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Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 11/26/2008 01:13AM by Andy Ray.