Erudition is that high level of learning acquired by reading, study, and scholarship. It is most often attributed to those who have given their life to academics. Rare though they be, there are such men who choose to give their lives to the more mundane labors of mankind and to those industries that are more apt to touch the lives of the masses. Although men such as this could have chosen to remain within the ivy covered walls enclosing the halls of learned scholars, some do not find satisfaction in the giving of life’s labors to increasing the academic knowledge of ephemeral things. They instead venture into the work of serving their fellow man in the difficult navigation of daily life. This kind of man is fulfilled only through being afforded the opportunity to give counsel to the people of his community. James Ross McKay was such a man. That James Ross McKay was a man who could rightly be called a man of letters was known to all who knew him. Yes, James Ross McKay was a man of erudition, but he owed his fame chiefly to his personality.
That wry grin of his, which when it spread across his countenance, announced to the world that this was a man who appreciated humor and who did not take himself too seriously. When he was amused a facial contortion spread across his face that caused his eyes to all but disappear until the punchline was delivered after which he would join his company in hearty laughter.
I had the privilege of working with Jim McKay for most of twenty five years as his law partner. I had heard that there was a former teacher and band director who had become a lawyer and had had seen him in court defending indigents in criminal cases. I watched as he stood before the court and advocated for the poor. These were the hardest of cases and the odds were against him but there stood James Ross McKay arguing for this client without fear or embarrassment. I was impressed and pulled him aside after court telling him that if he was ever interested I would like to someday practice law with him. The day he came to work with me as my partner changed the course of my life for the better. Jim and I worked for twenty five years representing thousands of debtors in bankruptcy proceedings. With his leadership and tireless work and long hours Fuller and McKay became the eighth largest bankruptcy law firm in the state of Georgia. Our clients were the honest working people of Northwest Georgia who were under the threat of becoming homeless with great burdens of debt caused by illness, death of a spouse, or loss of employment. The idea to take on this work was Jim’s idea entirely. I came reluctantly to the work. I will never forget the day he came to me saying that the people we were representing against the corporate giants were the same people Jesus had called ‘The least of these.’
James Ross McKay was a good and decent man. He dearly loved his wife, Amy Shelly McKay whom he married on the 19th day of June, 2009. He also loved his children; Cameron Ross McKay, who preceded him in death in 1988; Collin Charles McKay who preceded him in death in 2014; his beautiful daughters, Jennifer Kelley McKay of Rome, and Heather McKay-Schraeder of New Braunfels,Tx.; two stepsons, Stafford Andrew McPherson of Wildwood, Ga. and James Andrew Madden of Chattanooga; two grandsons, Charles Andrew Schraeder and Allen Ross Schraeder of new Braunfels, Tx.; one step grandson, Eli James McPherson of Wildwood, Ga.
Mr. McKay passed away at his residence following a long struggle with cancer. In compliance with his wishes, he is to be cremated and no services will be held to mark his passing. Those who wish to extend condolences are urged to make a donation to the American Cancer Society at www.cancer.org. James Ross McKay came this way and left his mark advocating for the poor and the disadvantaged. The world is the better for it.