Hamilton (Ham) E, McRae III was born Oct. 29, 1937, in Midland Texas, and died peacefully in his sleep on Jan. 19, 2018, in Phoenix. He was 80 years old.
Ham and Betty met growing up in Midland and were high school sweethearts at Midland High School. They married in 1960. Ham attended the University of Arizona where he was president of his fraternity, Phi Gamma Delta (FIJI). In 1961, he was the first recipient of the Wilkinson Award, presented to Phi Gamma Delta’s most outstanding senior. He graduated with an electrical engineering degree and entered the Air Force as a Lieutenant. He later returned to the University of Arizona to get his law degree. He graduated at the top of his class and scored number one on the State of Arizona Bar Exam.
He moved to Phoenix with Betty, Beth and Stephanie in 1967 and went to work for Jennings Strouss & Salmon where he was a real estate attorney and later became chair of the Real Estate Department. He deeply valued his relationship with his Jennings Strouss partners. Ham and one of his partners, Jay Stuckey, created a partnership to focus on their real estate business called Republic Companies. They became well known in real estate circles for their involvement in high quality and innovative developments such as the Renaissance Towers in downtown Phoenix, the Boulders Resort and Desert Highlands. Ham and Jay’s partnership was a testament to their mutual respect and lasting friendship.
At the same time Betty and Ham became involved in philanthropic endeavors. Ham was very involved in early stages of the Arizona Science Center, setting up an office in the garage so he could be more hands on. He was president of the board at the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and president of the Food for the Hungry board nationally and internationally. He also served on the boards of the Arizona Community Foundation, Waste Not, Maricopa County Community College, Economic Club of Phoenix and Upward Foundation. Ham served Valley Presbyterian Church as an Elder, Sunday School Superintendent, Mission Committee member and VPC Foundation member for 50 years.
He was an adventurer who made sure his children learned how to travel, ski and scuba dive around the world. He climbed Mount Kilimanjaro to bring attention to world hunger. He met Mother Theresa when she visited Phoenix and was profoundly moved by their visit.
He had a reputation as an honest businessman and someone with a fantastic sense of humor. He and Betty became fixtures in the charity world, as they supported numerous causes over the years. They also traveled the world together visiting far-flung places such as Cambodia, Vietnam and Antarctica. They lived in Cambridge, England for three months while Ham studied world hunger and wrote a book designed to help NGOs (non-governmental organizations) avoid pitfalls in their work with third-world countries.
He is survived by his wife Betty, children Beth, Stephanie and Scott and grandchildren Alex, Matt, Brad, Cole and Lauren.
His Celebration of Life will be at 10:30 a.m., Saturday, Feb. 17, at Valley Presbyterian Church with a lunch reception following at Landes Center, also at the church.