Jackson native David McNair dedicates life to local, global missions
If you were to take a peek at Jackson native and local businessman David McNair’s resume, you might be taken aback by the range in his professional career.
From his humble beginnings in mechanical newspaper production to building several businesses and developments from the ground up, McNair has held a wide variety of roles in his lifetime.
However, his work experience pales in comparison to his background in his true passion: mission work. Or, as McNair likes to say: “real, doing mission work.” Doing being the operative word.
When he says “doing,” McNair means actively participating in life-changing work.
“Doing is what it is all about,” he said.
And he walks the walk. Many of his 81 years of life have been spent doing just that both locally and abroad.
McNair has participated in numerous mission trips to Kazakhstan, Chile, Guyana, Ecuador, Honduras, Uganda, Tanzania, Cameroon, South Sudan, Venezuela, Malawi, England, Argentina, Brazil, Boston, Seaford, San Francisco and other parts of the U.S., Africa and South America.
He has also created endowments at Belhaven and Millsaps Colleges for Christian missions for students in cross-cultural settings.
In ‘92 he was named Big Brother of the Year for his extensive work with Big Brothers, Big Sisters of America. He has also previously served in a variety of leadership roles with Mississippi Food Network, Global Outreach and Here’s Life Africa.
Global Outreach now has 320 plus missionaries in 44+ countries.
“One of the finest missions operations in the country,” McNair said of the organization.
McNair, 81, was raised in Jackson. His father owned a farm less than a mile from County Line Road.
“Everything was gravel at that time,” McNair said. “As a matter of fact, the gravel road was not even named. In fact, my mother got tired of telling people to go out to Old Canton Road and then you turn left at the Pear Orchard. So, she called the supervisor and said can’t you name this road?”
The supervisor told her that was a fine idea and asked her opinion on what the name should be.
“She said I’ve been telling people to turn at the pear orchard, and he said that sounds good, Pear Orchard Road,” McNair said.
He told her to take a piece of wood and paint it and post it, and that’s how Pear Orchard got its name, according to McNair.
Later, the family moved onto Oakridge Drive on Old Canton Road, and he went to St. Andrew’s and was part of the second class to attend the school. Then, he skipped a grade so he was in the first graduating sixth-grade class at St. Andrew’s.
He graduated high school from McCallie School in Chattanooga before attending Millsaps College and graduating from Mississippi State University with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.
After a brief stint in the military, McNair moved to St. Louis and had plans to attend graduate school.
He was accepted into the University of Tennessee, then he was sick after leaving the army and decided not to go to school.
So, he went to St. Louis and went to work for a newspaper, the St. Louis Globe Democrat.
“I started out just manual labor, pulling tear pages,” he said. “Then, I ended up selling advertising and classifieds. Then, I went to display advertising and was thinking about coming back home.”
For two years, he was in charge of mechanical production for 300,000 circulation newspaper.
“I worked hard at it and did a good job, but I didn’t feel that it was going to be a long-term job for me so I resigned,” McNair said.
So, he ended up working for the football Cardinals, which he only expected to do briefly.
During this time he worked for the owner doing some publishing, some public relations work and signed players.
While there, he started and operated Orion Airways, which hired pilots to fly mail to 32 cities in 11 states. He sold the operation 18 months later.
After that, McNair started Cinema Eight with two partners in 1974, which was a private pay TV station in St. Louis, but later sold it to Times-Mirror Corp of Los Angeles.
Upon returning to Jackson in 1976, he built a Cindy’s restaurant, which opened on Lakeland in ‘79 right before the Easter flood.
“Three months after I built it, we had the 500 year flood, which stopped all of the development out there on Lakeland Drive,” McNair said.
McNair also opened Lakeland Mini Storage LLC; St. Davids LLC, which is a small residential subdivision; Treetops Development on Lakeland, which was an 89 acre development, and put in a 3,000 foot boulevard connecting two state highways now state highway, three motels, numerous restaurants, car wash, 24 hour vet clinic, blood bank and other businesses; and Flowood Business Park LLC.
He developed and taught a night school class “Starting and Operating Your Own Business” at Millsaps College from 1986 to 1995.
These experiences allowed him to combine his teaching and business skills into yet another ministry opportunity.
For two full days every other month, McNair would travel to Angola Louisiana State Penitentiary to teach an eight-hour course for three and a half years.
He discovered this opportunity when he heard an interview with Burl Cain, who was the warden at Angola at the time, on American Family Radio.
“I called him and told him I worked with these two colleges, and asked if he would come talk with them,” McNair said. So, Cain came to speak at Millsaps and Belhaven and invited McNair down to Angola.
“It was amazing seeing what was going on down there,” he said.
Cain had set up courses in welding, auto tech, auto collision, electrical and plumbing so that upon leaving prison, a person could have a job in order to prevent recidivism, McNair said.
Wanting to be a part of this work, McNair started his own course in understanding business as both an employee and as a business owner.
“I was preparing them for the future, but also for the present,” McNair said.
Even after he stopped teaching a course there, McNair recognized a gap in education being provided at the prison.
“I was thinking about someone who was in prison for 15 years, when they get out, they’re 15 years behind on finances,” McNair said.
So, he put in motion connecting Crown Financial Ministries with Angola, which led to the implementation of money management courses at the prison.
Now, McNair’s work continues as he is in the process of launching the Mississippi Prison Chapel Foundation, a non-profit for raising money for interfaith chapels for inmates, with the first to be located at Parchman.