Alabama Academy of Honor


John Finley McRae

The following biographical sketch was compiled at the time of induction into the Academy in 1978.



John Finley McRae, humanitarian, business and civic leader of Mobile, was born in Montgomery, Alabama, June 20, 1896, son of George W. and Fannie (Wilkes) McRae. His father, a Baptist minister, moved the family to Mobile in 1907 when Finley was eleven years old.

He received his early education in Mobile public schools, graduated from Barton Academy, and continued his education at Howard College (now Samford University) in Birmingham.

Upon graduation from college in 1915 McRae joined Merchants Bank in Mobile as a stenographer and a runner. He rose rapidly in his profession, was elected cashier in 1919; by 1928 he was vice president of the bank. In 1935, he was elected to the Board of Directors of the bank; he was Executive Vice-President of Merchants National Bank from 1937 to 1941 when at the death of Ernest Ladd, his mentor, he was elected president and chief executive officer, positions he held for twenty-six years. In 1963, he was elected chairman of the board and chief executive officer, the offices he held until his retirement.

Finley McRae worked untiringly for his community through professional and civic organizations. He spearheaded the development of Emest F. Ladd Memorial Stadium in the years following World War II. The stadium became the home of the Senior Bowl, and McRae was instrumental in securing the rights to acquire the Senior Bowl on non-profit terms in 1951. He was regarded as the "Father of the Senior Bowl" for his efforts in organizing that sporting event.

His sound business expertise and his integrity were widely recognized. He served on the Board of Directors of major corporations including Gulf, Mobile, and Ohio Railroad, Alabama Dry Docks and Ship Building Corporation, Southern Industries Corporation, International Paper Company, Alabama Power Company, United Gas Corporation, Waterman Stemship Company, American Liberty Insurance Company, and New Orleans Branch of Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

In addition McRae served for a number of years on the Alabama Advisory Committee of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation; served three years on the Federal Advisory Council which serves the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System; trustee of Southern Research Corporation, Birmingham; trustee since 1933 of the Mobile Infirmary; past president, Rotary Club of Mobile; founder of the Mobile Arts and Sports Association; and past chairman of Trustee of Ladd Memorial Stadium.

For his genuine concern for his fellow man and for his significant contributions to the quality of life of his city, Finley McRae was held in high esteem. In 1955 he was selected "Mobilian of the Year", the University of Alabama conferred on him membership in Omicron Delta Kappa, honorary fraternity recognizing leadership; and Springhill College in Mobile awarded him an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in 1963.

In March 1934, Finley McRae married Lucille Thompson. Their children are: John Finley McRae, Jr., Mary Duncan McRae (Mrs. Plumer B. Tonsmeire), and Cynthia Jean McRae (Mrs. James Bailey). Mr. McRae is now deceased.