Sumpter Milligan McGowin

Published 12:00 pm Wednesday, January 30, 2019

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Sumpter Milligan McGowin died Saturday at the age of 95.  He was preceded in death by his mother Cecelia Milligan McGowin, his father James Earle McGowin, his sister Cecelia McGowin Yow, and his wife of 60 years, Joanne Beeland McGowin.  He is survived by his sister Tere McGowin Williamson, his three children Frances Beeland McGowin, James Earle McGowin II, and Mints Milligan McGowin, 5 grandchildren, and 5 great grandchildren (with two on the way).

Sumpter was born in Georgiana, Alabama, but was a lifelong resident of Greenville.  He graduated as the valedictorian of the Greenville High School class of 1941.  He attended the University of Alabama for two years before joining the United States Navy and served as a junior officer aboard an LST landing craft in the Pacific theater of World War II.  At the conclusion of the war, he sailed the ship home as her captain, prompted by a series of promotions that serve as a testament to his talent and leadership, but he claims were accelerated by attrition.

He returned to Tuscaloosa and obtained a law degree, though he never practiced law as adversarial work was not in his nature.  He married Joanne Beeland of the legendary “Beeland Girls” of Greenville in 1953.  He formed Max Oil Company in 1957, eventually recruiting both of his sons to work alongside him.

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Sumpter was an astute business man, a keen political observer, an avid golfer, a quick wit and easy conversationalist, and a tender-hearted father, grandfather, and great grandfather. He was truly a family man who regularly spent time with his children and family until his death.  He was frugal to a degree that amused those who love him, but was also extremely generous, although he avoided recognition. He was also a loyal member of St. Thomas Episcopal Church for over 75 years.

It was his relationship with his wife, however, that was most extraordinary and will serve as his most enduring legacy.  He was a devoted husband.  He and Joanne not only loved each other, but remained in love to the very end.  To respect and honor each other and to laugh and enjoy each other – to have such FUN together! – after 60 years of marriage serves as an example for, and sets a standard to which we, his family, all aspire.  He will be missed terribly.

Visitation is at 10:30 a.m., Friday February 1st at Saint Thomas Episcopal Church, 210 Church Street, Greenville, AL 36037.  Memorial service following at 11:30 a.m.

In lieu of flowers, please send memorials to Service Dogs Alabama, 8365 Mobile Hwy, Hope Hull, AL 36043.