‘He had a big heart’ —Family, friends mourn McMillan
“Big Daddy,” as his grandchildren called him, was larger than life.
Brewton native Ed Leigh McMillan II was well known in the forestry industry, but for his family and his hometown, his “big heart” has left a lasting legacy. McMillan died Thursday in Rochester, Minn., where he had been undergoing cancer treatment at the Mayo Clinic.
McMillan, managing trustee for the D.W. McMillan Trust and D.W. McMillan Foundation — through which he managed 40,000 acres of timber — dedicated his career to forestry but was also a generous contributor to various Brewton institutions and was named the city’s Man of the Year in 1983.
“Ed Leigh was very much involved with the community,” said Dr. Ed Glaize, pastor at First United Methodist Church, where McMillan was a member and enjoyed singing in the choir. “His death is a great loss for Brewton, but Heaven is a better place with him there. He had a big heart and could light up a room with his boisterous voice and personality. We will miss him, and our congregation here at the church will miss him. He has done a lot for many people, and his acts of kindness will be remembered.”
McMillan was also general partner of McMillan Ltd., a family-owned partnership controlling timber, a cattle operation and gas properties in four states.
John David Finlay, a friend and a relative of McMillan and a co-worker at the D.W. McMillan Trust, called him “a generous person.”
“He loved to go hunting and fishing as a pasttime, but he worked very hard here at McMillan Trust and McMillan Foundation,” Finlay said. “He was born and raised in this community and loved it all his life.”
Born in Brewton, McMillan graduated from T.R. Miller High School — where he played football for the Tigers — and later earned a forestry degree from North Carolina State University and a finance degree from the University of Alabama.
He spent more than 40 years with T.R. Miller Mill Co., where he served as the first forester, and was past president and past director of Cedar Creek Land and Timber in Brewton. He was also past president of Neal Land and Timber Co. in Blountstown, Fla. Although he resigned his management positions with those companies in 2006 and called himself “semi-retired,” he remained active in many capacities.
In 2010, he was named Forest Landowner of the Year by the Forest Landowners Association, for which he was not only a 40-year member but also a past president. Earlier this year, he was named the 2011 Natural Resources Distinguished Alumnus from North Carolina State. In 1981, McMillan received the W. Kelly Mosley Environmental Award for Achievements in Forestry, Wildlife and Related Resources. Family members said being a good steward of the forest and natural resources was of great importance to him.
McMillan was also owner of Double “M” Farms of Brewton, a cattle farm which raises and sells commercial cross-bred cows and calves. He was a supporter of the Alabama Livestock Exposition, held annually in Montgomery.
McMillan’s brother Tom recalled that growing up with him had been an adventure. “He was always up to something,” Tom McMillan said. “He was always full of life, and there was never a boring minute when he was around.”
That attitude served his brother well throughout his life and business, Tom said.
“Whatever he did, he always did a good job, and did it in a positive way,” he said. “He will be missed, not only by his family, but by all those he touched.”
In his hometown, McMillan had been instrumental in a number of Brewton institutions, including the public library, D.W. McMillan Memorial Hospital, the Brewton Area YMCA — for which he had served on the board — and Jefferson Davis Community College, among others. Outside Brewton, he supported the Alabama Wildlife Association, the Nature Conservancy and Boy Scouts of America.
McMillan had been in treatment in Minnesota for the past three months, during which time family members kept updating a Caring Bridge Web journal documenting his treatment — and his positive attitude about his diagnosis.
One story illustrates McMillan’s love for his hometown. When his physician suggested that some patients opt out of treatment and choose a trip to Tahiti instead, McMillan was adamant that he wanted to fight — and return home.
“Well, Hell, man,” he told the doctor. “I already live in paradise. I don’t want to go to Tahiti.”
Among other family, McMillan is survived by his wife, Ann, son Ed and daughter-in-law Perri, son Dan and daughter-in-law Kathy, stepdaughter Christina Johnson and husband Stanley; 10 grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.
At the North Carolina State awards ceremony in January, McMillan’s son Dan recited a prayer he said was inspired by his father’s words of wisdom: “Remember that life is short and we have too little time to gladden the hearts of those who travel with us. So be quick to be kind, make haste to love and may the blessing of God Almighty be with us and remain with us always.”
Services will be held at 4 p.m. Sunday at First United Methodist Church. The full obituary is click on the obituary tab.