Cover photo for Alexander McMillan III's Obituary
Alexander McMillan III Profile Photo

Alexander McMillan III

May 9, 1932 — April 19, 2024

Charleston

Alexander McMillan III

John Alexander McMillan III, age 91, entered into eternal rest Friday, April 19, 2024. Affectionately known as Brother, DaDa, Sweet D and Mic by his nearest and dearest, Alex (pronounced ‘eh-lik’ according to his mother) led an exemplary life marked by significant accomplishments as a business and civic leader.  Words most often used to describe Alex were faithful, passionate, witty, sharp, loyal, patriotic (in the historical use of the word), principled, humble, no-nonsense, unflappable, stubborn, and sagacious.  ‘Stoic’ would have described him most of his early life, but ‘sentimental’ would be a better word as he grew older. Alex was beloved and admired by all who knew or knew of him.  He was a principled leader in both the public and private sector; but considered himself a steward of his calling, whether it be of our liberty, our history, our environment, our communities, our honorable institutions, or most importantly, our family heritage. 

Alex attended public school in Charlotte until he went to Woodberry Forest School in Virginia (’50). He earned his AB in History from the University of North Carolina (’54) and his MBA from the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia (’58).

As Congressman of NC-9 (’85-’95), he guarded the constitution, our natural and historical resources, the federal budget and the integrity of our election process. He was a strong advocate for public accountability, transparency and campaign finance reform.  But more than that, he inspired confidence in the direction of our country and the proposition of the American experiment. He was a statesman who loved getting into the weeds of policymaking and working across the aisle; he didn’t like the politics. 

As CEO of Harris Teeter Supermarkets (’77-’83), he led in industry innovation, corporate change strategy, community engagement, and adaptive reuse of historic buildings in Charlotte and Charleston. He was an entrepreneur by nature, starting two companies of his own and developing a residential neighborhood. He succeeded as an investment banker, as CFO of Ruddick Corporation, and as a valuable trustee/director on the boards of multiple banking and financial institutions.

Alex was a lifelong member of Myers Park Presbyterian Church and later First (Scots) Presbyterian Church when he and Caroline moved to Charleston in 2003. As an elder and Vice Moderator at Myers Park Presbyterian Church, he initiated and raised capital for development projects in Haiti.  Alex spearheaded the creation of Spirit Square, the adaptive reuse of his grandmother’s church, First Baptist Church, into Charlotte’s first performing arts center. He led the privatization of county-owned Educational TV into an ongoing innovative PBS affiliate. Alex reimagined the first successful adaptive reuse of an historic train depot in downtown Charleston into a contextually appropriate, thriving Harris Teeter supermarket.

Among the numerous boards and commissions he served on, Alex was most passionate about his service on the boards of the Civil War Preservation Trust, the American Civil War Museum at Tredegar, the Museum of the New South, Woodberry Forest School, Union Theological Seminary and The Darden School at UVA. He greatly enjoyed being a Public Fellow at the Institute of the Arts & Humanities at UNC, and teaching cadets as the Hipp Chair at the Citadel Graduate School of Business.  In any and every role, Alex lead by example, walking the talk, letting his actions speak louder than his words.  Humility, diligence and collaboration were the hallmarks of his leadership style, inspiring those with whom he worked and served.

Alex valued personal integrity and character above anything else and would credit his character formation to biblical family values and his beloved alma mater, Woodberry Forest School, which taught him to fight for the “hard right against the easy wrong” (A Boy’s Prayer). Alex believed that motto to his core and lived his life accordingly. His career path was forged according to principle and purpose, not power and prestige.  He was a well-read historian and philosopher who believed that those who ignore the past are condemned to repeat it.  Alex was influenced by Toynbee whose writings introduced him to the historical theory of challenge as a creative change agent-this construct defined his approach to leadership in both business and in public service.  His profound reverence for God’s creation and man’s capacity for good made him an innate constitutionalist, preservationist and conservationist. 

Although Alex would be considered by the world as highly successful and accomplished, he did not define himself that way. The source of his joy was his family, particularly his loving wife, Caroline.  Caroline and Alex were a dynamic, energetic and winsome couple who were devoted to each other as well as their family and friends.  Their home was often filled with extended family, gathering for holidays and birthdays, serving Granny’s family recipes for each occasion.  Laughter exploded from the walls of their house with the telling of family lore and spirited antics. 

Nothing delighted Alex more than to see the unique senses of humor develop in each of his children and grandchildren where the apple did not drop far from the tree. Alex’s grandchildren adored their grandfather, DaDa, and each one would say that he is one of the greatest influences on their lives. Alex was happiest in his home in Linville, NC, “Scots on the Rocks”, where he and Caroline were surrounded by friends and family, and the majesty of the Blue Ridge mountains and trout-filled streams. 

He will be remembered through the loving legacy of his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Alex is survived by his wife of 64 years, Caroline Houston McMillan; his children: Elizabeth McMillan Hagood (Maybank) and John Alexander McMillan IV (Betsy); his grandchildren: Alex (Caroline), Ian (Sadie), Caroline (Wells), Peter, Banks (fiancée Mason), Marianna (Marshall) and LuLu (fiancé Payne); great-granddaughter (Callan); and a passel of nieces, nephews and cousins. He is predeceased by his parents, John Alexander McMillan Jr. and Mildred Shepherd McMillan, and his siblings, Mildred McMillan Wood (Mimi) and Donald Shepherd McMillan (Maxie).

Funeral Services will be held in Charleston on Friday, April 26, 2024 at 10 o’clock in The Chapel at Bishop Gadsden, reception to follow. Arrangements by J. Henry Stuhr, Inc. Downtown Chapel. 
Funeral Services will be held in Charlotte on Friday, May 3, 2024 at 11 o’clock at Myers Park Presbyterian Church, reception to follow. 

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Joe and Marge Grills Fund for the Study of the American Constitution and Government at Woodberry Forest School or The Institute for the Public Trust.

The McMillan family wishes to thank the staff at Bishop Gadsden and Lutheran Hospice of Charleston for their loving care of Alex.


To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Alexander McMillan III, please visit our flower store.

Past Services

Funeral Service

Friday, April 26, 2024

10:00 - 11:00 am (Eastern time)

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

Guestbook

Visits: 731

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the
Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Service map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

Send Flowers

Send Flowers

Plant A Tree

Plant A Tree