McGee, Virgil Varnell

Retired As Commander With The U.S. Navy

  • Saturday, April 13, 2024
Virgil Varnell McGee
Virgil Varnell McGee

Virgil Varnell McGee was born November 1, 1933 in Chattanooga, Tennessee to the late Willie E. McGee and Myrtle Barrington McGee.

He was preceded in death by his brothers, Willie Edward McGee, Jr., and Calvin Grady McGee and one sister, Eddie Ruth O’Neal.

“Varnell” as he was affectionately called was educated in the Hamilton County Public School System and is a 1952 graduate of Howard High School. Varnell accepted Christ at an early age and was a member of Thompkin Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. Upon completion of high school, he began his college career at Tennessee A & I College (Tennessee State University) in Nashville. During his matriculation at Tennessee State he pledged Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. While a student, he met and fell in love with LaFonde Jeanette Williams of Richmond, Virginia. Varnell graduated in 1956 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Accounting. The couple married on July 3, 1957. One month later, Varnell was accepted to Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island and became a commissioned naval officer in 1957.

With 23 years of service, he rose to the rank of Commander in the United States Navy. Commander McGee had numerous assignments, both at sea and ashore. Among these were a Division Officer aboard the Aircraft Carrier USS Leyte (CVS-32); Division Officer, Heavy Cruiser USS Rochester (CA- 124); Assistant Communication Officer, Heavy Cruiser USS Los Angeles (CA-135); and First Lieutenant and Weapon Officer aboard the Seaplane Tender USS Pine Island (AV-12). In 1974, he became the Commanding Officer of the USS Vega (AF-49) stationed in Alameda, California.

His shore assignments included Personnel Officer for the Naval Air Rocket Test Station, Lake Denmark, Dover, New Jersey and Communications Officer at Lake Mead Base in Las Vegas, Nevada. He also headed the Training Command’s Operation Branch while serving under Rear Admiral Edwin M. Rosenberg at the Naval Reserve Training Base in Omaha, Nebraska. In 1971, Commander McGee received orders to become the Commanding Officer of the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) Unit at Savannah State College (Savannah State University) and graduated the first class of Commissioned Officers in 1974.

Commander McGee retired from the Navy in 1979 and returned to Chattanooga to re-establish the family business, Live and Let Live Barber Shop which was originally started by his father in 1931. Upon returning to Chattanooga, he quickly reunited with Thompkin Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and served in several different leadership capacities to include Steward Board Chairman and Preacher’s Stewart. In 1986, Commander McGee was appointed by Governor Lamar Alexander to serve on the State Barber Examining Board. He was an active member of the Howard High School Class of 1952, Tennessee State Alumni Association and a very active member of the Psi Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. where he served in several leadership positions. He was honored in 2023 by the Psi Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha for 70 years of service.

On April 9, 2024, Commander Virgil V. McGee, Sr. was called home to be with the Lord. He leaves behind to cherish the memories, his beloved wife of 66 years LaFonde McGee, his children Virgil Jr. and Nedra, three sister in-laws, Angelyn R. Williams, Barbara J. Williams, Virginia K. Williams, one granddaughter Danielle Alison Wakefield and several nieces, nephews and cousins and a host of friends and colleagues.

Mr. McGee will lie in state on Wednesday, April 17, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. at Taylor Funeral Home. Family will be present to receive friends from 4-5 p.m. Funeral services will be on Thursday, April 18, at 11:30 a.m. at Olivet Baptist Church with Reverend Kevin Slayton, Sr. as eulogist. Burial will be in Chattanooga National Cemetery.

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