Thomas Chipman McRae IV

Obituary Notice

Thomas Chipman McRae IV, age 65, of Arkadelphia died after a lengthy illness at his home on the morning of Thursday, January 29, 2004. He was born June 11, 1938 in El Dorado, AR, the son of Carleton and Mary Jo Rogers McRae.

Survivors include his wife, Christine Gilchrist McRae; one son, Thomas "Tam" Chipman McRae, V, of Little Rock; one daughter, Catherine and son-in-law Ron Silver of New York, NY; his mother, Mary Joe McRae of Fort. Smith; one brother, Duncan Christopher McRae of Fort Smith; one sister, Mary Carleton Young of Fort Smith. Tom was the great-grandson of Thomas C. McRae who served as governor of Arkansas from 1920 through 1924. He graduated from El Dorado High School in 1956. He received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in history from the University of Arkansas, then attended the U. of A. Law School receiving the Juris Doctorate degree in 1963. He was a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity. After graduating from law school, he made an unorthodox decision that would define the essence of his entire life and career. He decided to forgo law practice in favor of joining the Peace Corps, serving in Nepal from 1964 through 1966, teaching English at a boys' boarding school in the foothills of the Himalayas. He was befriended and supported in his work by the crown Prince of Nepal and later served as a land reform judge in the Terai region of India, traveling from village to village on the back of an elephant to help adjudicate land disputes. On his return to the USA, he met his future wife, Christine Gilchrist in Cairo, Egypt. They were married in Burton-on-Trent, England in 1966 and moved to Washington D.C., where Tom joined the war on poverty, working for Sargent Schriver in the Office of Economic Opportunity. In 1968, Tom returned to Arkansas to direct the Model Cities Program in Texarkana. In 1972, he became Chief of Staff to Governor Dale Bumpers and a director of the Ozarks Regional Commission. After Governor Bumper's election to the U. S. Senate, Tom became the first president of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation in Little Rock, which he led for 14 years. In later years, he was Vic-President of Southern Development Bank Corporation in Arkadelphia and CEO of the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED) in Berea, Kentucky. Tom was instrumental in the formation of the Southern Development Bank Corporation. He was also active in the area of environmental issues and was instrumental in obtaining National River status for the Buffalo River as well as designation of Arkansas' first two Wilderness areas. Tom was strongly committed to the concept that society needed to use its resources wisely, especially energy resources. In 1982 he built an energy efficient cabin near Caddo Gap, Arkansas, which was intended to demonstrate the capacity of modern technology to produce a living unit with minimal impact on resources. In addition to his passion for his State, Tom had a deep love for Scotland, and the land of his ancestors, where he found serenity in its mountains and moors. For many years, he led walking tours for the Ozark Society in the Highlands of Scotland and also a memorable trek around the Annapurna Massif in Nepal. He was member of the Arkansas Expedition to Mount Everest. He loved poetry, especially that of Frost, Burns, and Kipling, and often erupted in long recitations at the dinner table. During his courageous battle with ALS ( Lou Gehrig's Disease), he enjoyed the constant and faithful company of his many friends, his devoted nurses of the Baptist Hospice Program of Arkadelphia, with all of who he shared his wisdom, his love of all things Scottish, and his encyclopedic knowledge of Arkansas. Tom McRae was one of Arkansas' true visionaries. He loved his family, he loved the earth, and he was committed to the concept that people can live on this earth without abusing its resources. He will be missed immeasurably.

A memorial service will be held at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Little Rock at 2:00 P. M. on Tuesday, February 3, 2004, officiated by The Very Reverend Henry Hudson. A reception will follow services in Morrison Hall at the church. Arrangements are by Ruebel Funeral Home.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorials be made to Heifer International, P. O. Box 8058, Little Rock, AR 72201 or The Tom McRae Memorial Fund at the Arkansas Community Foundation, 700 South Rock Street, Little Rock, AR 72202-2519. 

Register Book

  • A most wonderful, delightful person who will be tremendously missed by his family and friends.
    Kriss Schaffer
    Charleston, Arkansas
  • David Hardt
    Fort Smith, AR
  • To the family of Richard: I was a friend of Richard's when he lived in Wellington, Kansas. In 1968 Richard taught me to water ski. He enjoyed the outdoors and boating. Later, he was associated with the Elk's Club in Wellington. He was a really nice guy and I was sorry to see that he had passed. He was respected and well-liked. You can be proud of him. 
    Very sincerely,
    Donna Huth
    Reno, Nevada
  • Tom was the BEST boss I ever had. He was a great leader - full of inspiration with the courage it takes to be a great visionary. He was truly a gentle giant. I will miss him always.
    Teresa Hudson
    Formerly of Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation
    Little Rock, Arkansas
  • Tony Mathews
    Director, Operations, Data-Tronics Corp.
    Fort Smith, Arkansas