Gadsden businessman and longtime Auburn University trustee Michael McCartney died on Monday. He was 88.
McCartney came to Auburn as a student in 1952. He walked on to play football for legendary Coach Ralph “Shug” Jordan, but an injury as a freshman ended his dreams of gridiron glory. It did not sideline his Auburn career though and he graduated with a degree in engineering in 1957.
“I graduated in civil engineering in 1957 and went to work for the Florida Highway Department and for a contractor for about five years,” McCartney said in a 2016 interview. “My dad started a little construction business here in Gadsden, Alabama, and wanted me to come home. We were happy in Florida, but the idea of coming home really sounded good to us, and we’ve been very grateful ever since.”
McCartney would rise to become President of that company. For decades, McCartney Construction played a prominent role in road construction in the state of Alabama.
McCartney served on the Board of Governors for the National Asphalt Pavement Association. He was also President of the Alabama Asphalt Pavement Association and served as President of the Alabama Road Builders.
He served on the Auburn Board of Trustees from 1979 to 1993. In 1981, he was on the search committee that brought Pat Dye to Auburn as head football coach. He served as president pro tempore for five of his 14 years on the Board of Trustees. He was also founding director and longtime president of the Tigers Unlimited Foundation and served in several leadership roles with the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering.
“Mr. McCartney was an iconic figure at Auburn and had tremendous impact on all aspects of the university,” Auburn President Christopher B. Roberts said. “As our former Dean of Engineering, I was able to witness first-hand the nationally relevant academic programs that he helped us build.”
“Mr. McCartney’s impact on half a century of Auburn Athletics is undeniable,” said Tim Jackson, executive associate athletics director. “He’s tremendously impacted our facilities, our finances and the recommendation of excellent coaches for our programs.”
The Jordan-Hare Stadium Brick Plaza located outside the Tigers' Den on the south side of the stadium was officially dedicated as the Mike and Jane McCartney Plaza in 2006.
"Auburn doesn't just mean anything to me. Auburn means everything to me," McCartney said at the dedication. "It's not often that I talk about myself, but I couldn't think of any other way to express what Auburn and Auburn football mean to me. What an honor it is to have the McCartney name associated with a stadium named for two great football coaches."
McCartney served on the Board of the National Center for Asphalt Technology (NCAT) since its inception and was instrumental in getting the NCAT testing facility located at Auburn. He served as chair of the Alabama Road Builders Hall of Fame and the Alabama Engineers Hall of Fame. He was a lifetime member of the Auburn University Alumni Engineering Council and established the Michael B. McCartney Endowed Chair in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He supported the completion of the Shelby Center for Engineering Technology through gifts to construct the McCartney Suite and Terrace, and he was a founding member of the Auburn Keystone Society.
McCartney made another significant gift to enhance Auburn’s men’s basketball program, providing funding for travel, recruiting and facility upgrades. In recognition of McCartney’s gift, the Athletics Department named the McCartney Atrium adjacent to the scholarship entrance at Neville Arena in his honor.
He attended First United Methodist Church in Gadsden where he served on the Board of Stewards. He was a member of the board of The Chamber of Commerce for Gadsden & Etowah County. He served on the Metropolitan Planning Commission and chaired the Etowah County Tourism Board; and as captain of the Gadsden Quarterback Club.
McCartney’s funeral services will be at 2 p.m. Friday at Gadsden First United Methodist Church. The family will receive visitors from noon until service time at the church. Burial will follow in Forrest Cemetery.
McCartney and his wife Martha Jane Bottoms McCartney had two sons, Michael and Tim, and one daughter, Carol. Martha Jane passed away in 2013 – they had been married for 57 years. McCartney is survived by his three children, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
The family will welcome flowers, or in lieu of those, a memorial may be made to the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering at Auburn University or a charity of the donor’s choice.
(Original reporting by the Gadsden Times contributed to this report.)
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