NORTH CHARLESTON — Gary McJunkin, a longtime recreation and community leader in the Charleston region, died March 28. He was 89.
McJunkin, also affectionately known as “Mr. Mac,” served Lowcountry residents for 25 years as he oversaw the development of North Charleston ball fields and playgrounds and a wide range of recreational programs.
McJunkin, a Greenville native, served two years in the Army before returning to South Carolina and becoming involved with the Cooper River Parks and Playground Commission, which ran the North Area’s athletic programs before North Charleston’s incorporation in 1972.
Though technically a separate entity from the city, the commission worked in partnership with North Charleston on athletic projects.
McJunkin served as a volunteer under the commission’s former director, Danny Jones. After Jones died in 1966, McJunkin succeeded him as head of the commission and served from 1967 until his retirement in 1994.
McJunkin was also involved in a number of other national and statewide organizations, including the S.C. Recreation and Park Society (now the S.C. Recreation and Parks Association), Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Dixie Youth Baseball.
The Charleston-area recreation leader watched generations of families participate in sports programs. Even after retirement, he served as a mentor for recreation professionals who sought his guidance and support.
Mayor Keith Summey, who considers McJunkin a personal role model, once said, “He helped me develop as an individual, both in athletics and in life.”
In addition to his passion for athletics, McJunkin was a man of deep faith.
The son of a Baptist minister, McJunkin served as pastor of several Charleston-area churches for 27 years. He felt the roles of recreation director and pastor were similar because they both involved making people’s lives better.
Councilman Ron Brinson, who grew up in the Park Circle area, said McJunkin’s greatest accomplishment was implementing a value system that prioritized family involvement in playground activities
“He cared about his community and he certainly cared about the young people in the community,” Brinson said.
Among his many recognitions, McJunkin was once named Lowcountry Sportsman of the Year by The Post and Courier and was inducted into the Charleston Baseball Hall of Fame. Gov. Jim Hodges awarded him the Order of the Palmetto.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Homestead Hospice at 133 East 1st North, Suite No. 9, Summerville, SC 29483.
Reach Rickey Dennis at 937-4886. Follow him on Twitter @RCDJunior.