James C. McWillie, AFSC, 101, father, World War II Veteran, Catholic Diocese of Memphis CFO, passed away on February 11, 2017 at Ave Maria Home, Bartlett, Tenn. He is survived by his daughters, Judith of Athens, Ga., Mary Elizabeth (Betty) of Memphis, Tenn. and sister, Nancy, of Gainesville, Fla. He was predeceased by his wife, Elizabeth in 1998, and earlier by his two brothers, Louis and William.
Mr. McWillie, known fondly in Memphis as “Jim,” spent his elementary school days at St. Peter Home for Children and later attended Christian Brothers High School, graduating in 1933. He was an employee of General Motors (GMAC) in Memphis and New York until World War II broke out and he volunteered for the Army Air Corps, serving during the Ardennes, Rhineland and Central Europe Campaigns. Upon returning to Memphis, Jim continued his work in the field of finance at the Murdock Acceptance Corporation.
In 1971 Jim was appointed the first chief lay administrator of the newly formed Catholic Diocese of Memphis, a position he held for 17 years. He assisted the Most Reverend Joseph Aloysius Durick, Bishop of Nashville, in the formation of the Memphis Diocese and served as CFO under Memphis Bishops Carroll Dozier, Francis Stafford and Daniel Buechlein. After his retirement he continued to do committee work and served on the Diocesan Board for 10 years with Bishop J. Terry Steib, SVD.
He remained active in retirement serving on the Board of Memphis Light, Gas and Water, appointed by former Mayor Dick Hackett, where he provided financial leadership, and became a volunteer at the Christian Brothers University Archives and the Beverly and Sam Ross Gallery until 2015.
He is a member of the Memphis Amateur Boxing Hall of Fame and recently received the Kiwanis Club's Outstanding Senior Citizen Award. He was also awarded The National Council of Christians and Jews' Humanitarian of the Year Award, an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Christian Brothers University, the Papal Knighthood of St. Gregory, the Pro Ecclesia Papal Award and the Papal Knighthood of the Holy Sepulcher. He was an Affiliated Member (AFSC) of the Christian Brothers, and was inducted into the CBHS Hall of Fame. He received the Diocesan Martyrs of Memphis Award, the UNICO Civic Award, and was a Lifetime Member of Diversity Memphis.
Jim was at home with prominent leaders and citizens yet he was also a devoted friend and helper to the ordinary and unnoticed among us. His character and honor is best described in the following poem:
“If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!”
IF by Rudyard Kipling.
The funeral Mass was held Wednesday, February 15 at St. Louis Catholic Church, Memphis. Burial followed at Memorial Park Cemetery, 5668 Poplar Avenue, Memphis, Tenn.