Jimmy McGregor

Obituary of Jimmy A. McGregor

Jimmy A. McGregor, a devoted husband and father who rose from rural Mississippi cotton farms to become one of Maine’s most visible political pundits, died March 3 in Augusta. McGregor, who was 80, died of complications from Parkinson's disease in the Maine Veterans Home, where he had been a resident for several years. A native of Pontotoc, Mississippi, McGregor grew up in a sharecropping family and worked in cotton fields as a youth. His 5th grade teacher, noting McGregor's exceptional writing ability, encouraged his parents to see that he received a full education. McGregor attended community college in Decatur, Mississippi, before serving in the Air Force between 1961 and '65. He then began his career as a court and political reporter with the Montgomery (Alabama) Advertiser, where he was the recipient of numerous awards for journalism, including being part of an investigative team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 1970. He later moved on to United Press International (UPI), where McGregor reported to the nation and world major events surrounding the civil rights movement in the South, including the Selma-to-Montgomery civil rights march, the trial of a Ku Klux Klansman for the killing of a demonstrator, and landmark court decisions opening the doors to African Americans for fair treatment. As the heat of the civil rights movement of that time abated, McGregor was transferred to Maine to become UPI's bureau chief in the State House, but his role soon turned from reporter to participant. In 1974, McGregor was approached by James B. Longley, who asked him to manage his campaign for governor. Running as an independent, Longley was a long shot for election, but McGregor signed on. As campaign director, McGregor's influence on messaging and skillful dealings with the media have been credited for giving Longley a victory over Democrat George Mitchell and Republican James Erwin—and Maine its first independent governor. McGregor served as the governor's executive assistant for his entire term. Known for his low-key fashion of assisting Longley as “shadow governor,” but always maintaining his folksy sense of humor, McGregor had a heavy hand in fashioning policies whose effects are visible today, such as the Maine bottle bill, billboard law, and Indian Land Claims Settlement Act. Following his service to the governor, McGregor spent over a decade as Director of Public Relations at Bath Iron Works (BIW), during which BIW witnessed substantial growth and transition. Throughout the 1980’s McGregor served as the face and voice of BIW as production moved from frigates to Arleigh Burke-Class destroyers, and BIW expanded its footprint in Bath and added a drydock facility in Portland. From the mid 1990’s until his retirement in 2011, McGregor served as the Executive Director of the Maine Merchants Association, where he aggressively advocated for Maine small businesses and retailers. In 2010, Maine Merchants honored him by creating its annual Jim McGregor Government Service Award. Throughout his life and career, McGregor’s passion for writing never subsided. He was the author of numerous essays and opinion pieces that were regularly published in national and local publications, addressing topics ranging from controversial legislation to his experiences about living in Maine “being from away,” and often stories about his children and grandchildren and how much they meant to him. McGregor is survived by his wife, Shirley (Fignar) of Augusta; sons Brian McGregor and his wife Eveline of Brunswick, and Tobin McGregor and his wife France of Middleburg, Virginia; and daughter Jennifer Cram and her husband John of Manchester, Maine. Additionally, five grandchildren: Scott McGregor, Annie McGregor, Katie Wheeler and her husband Sam Wheeler, Isla McGregor, and Lachlan McGregor, as well as four great grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, the family has designated LearningWorks for memorial contributions. (207) 775-0105, 181 Brackett Street, Portland, ME 04102; info@learningworks.me; www.learningworks.me/support-the-cause
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