When most of us consider the legacy we might leave, we likely do not consider that our impact would reach the tens of thousands. But Ralph McGill’s does.
Without him, there would be no Town of Farragut.
That may seem easy to read over, so try it this way – Ralph’s legacy is the community you live in and love. It is not hyperbole to say that your home, your street, your park, your life would be different were it not for Ralph McGill. Because without Ralph, Farragut would be different, and likely would not be at all.
In 1979, Ralph McGill sat in the living room of his house in Village Green subdivision and watched his backyard flood.
The price of errant development and inconsistent rules, the backyard flooding of Ralph and Marianne McGill’s first home in Farragut was a catalyst that led to the grassroots founding of the Town. Others were already discussing the idea of incorporation to control the uncontrolled, to ensure beauty where there was a flooded mass of mud, but all the original founders acknowledge Ralph organized and managed the incorporation effort.
“We all had an idea to incorporate, but no one was willing to step up and lead. That was Ralph,” said Eric Johnson, another founding father of Farragut. “He had the courage and conviction to lead this effort. That was his character. He was always dedicated to making sure the government worked for the people.”
With car odometers and pencils and paper, Ralph and other founders walked and drove the borders of what would be the Town of Farragut. He knocked on doors to collect petition signatures and to encourage voters to come out to the polls. He gave interviews to the press and participated in debates at Farragut High School. His even keel protected the idea of the Town during those contentious times, when a stray comment might have ruined the effort. His determination and drive kept the fight alive when convenience or apathy might have led down the path of least resistance.
“Ralph was the savior of the incorporation effort,” said Betty Dick, current Farragut Municipal Planning Commission and member of the founding group. “He led us in the direction we needed to go, and with him we put this whole thing together in 20 days. We’ve lost a really great man, and I hope the people of Farragut know that. He was honest and forward and had great integrity. He truly believed in the Town of Farragut.”
“As mayor, he always sought others’ opinions and worked to represent everyone in the community. He was an outstanding mayor,” Johnson said.
When the incorporation fight was over, McGill returned to his life, to his family, to his job at ORNL as a mechanical engineer. He let others lead the Town and watched the community he loved gain shape, grow and thrive.
When Ralph became Farragut’s third mayor, it was a return to his legacy.
Ralph might have been an engineer by trade, but he was an activist at heart. A true community politician, a believer in governance for the people. He kept photographs of Village Green flooding, of people wading through their driveways in water up to their knees. When he described his work to fix those issues – and many others – he equated it to the American Revolution, to a David and Goliath battle.
For Ralph, there was a reason the Town was named Farragut. Like Admiral David Glasgow Farragut, he, too, had stood in the fray and shouted “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!”
He and the other founders stood against the giant … and won.
Funeral services for McGill will be held Friday, June 29, in the worship center at First Baptist Concord. Viewing will be from 5-6:45 p.m. and a celebration of life service will begin at 7 p.m. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation at crohnsandcolitisfoundation.org.
Heather Mays Beck, now communications manager at BarberMurry, wrote the book “Full Speed Ahead” in 2013.