Edward Lee McClain, son of William Page McClain and Margaret Ann (Parkinson) McClain, was born May 30, 1861, in Greenfield, Ohio. Here he grew to manhood, established his own home, lived the Biblical three score ten, and almost three years, and died on May 2, 1934, its beloved and most distinguished citizen.
Mr. McClain is survived by his widow, Lulu Theodosia (Johnson) McClain, whom he married December 17, 1885, and three children, Edward Lee McClain, Jr., of Hood River, Oregon, and Los Angeles, California, Helen McClain Young (Mrs. Robert S. Young), of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, Donald Schofield McClain, of Atlanta, Georgia; also, three grandchildren—Edna Mildred McClain, of I.os Angeles, Donald Schofield McClain, Jr., Helen Marjoric McClain, Atlanta, Georgia; and one sister, Nellie McClain McCafferty (Mrs. Wm. M. McCafferty), of Los Angeles, California.
Continuously members of four generations of Mr. McClain’s family have been associated with Greenfield since 1857. The Rev. John McClain lived his last days in the home of his son, William Page McClain, and during that period gave of his faith and labor to the upbuilding of the lord Methodist Episcopal church, concluding here fifty years of activity as a local preacher, having followed in the footsteps of his father, the Rev. Peter McClain.
In early youth Mr. McClain affiliated himself with the church of his father and his forefathers, and steadfastly served therein in the way that best suited his talents, in earnestly helping to provide and maintain a beautiful temple and church properly in the community. “If anything ever does happen you so that you can not carry on” it was written to him only a few brief weeks ago, “the church of your love and the object of your service and care will so miss your presence and blessing that it will need to be prayed for in order that it may not be so discouraged and heartless that it can’t carry on. That church is pretty much a monument to E. L. McClain. Who should covet any greater monument than … the church that goes by your spirit!” But his beneficent interest transcended local and denominational lines and all religious undertakings had his respect and many knew his bounty.
At the age of fifteen, Edward Lee McClain began his business career in the harness shop of his father, William Page McClain. Conceiving the idea of a horse collar pad for the general trade and constantly alert for improvement of his product, the idea of the elastic steel hook presented itself to his active mind. The device permitted the pad to be readily attached to and detached from the horse collar, thus avoiding the risk of frightening the animal by adjusting it over its head, as in the cruder style. “A Success From the Word Go”, his advertising slogan, became a prophecy of the young man’s successful business career.
It is not unusual for an American business to grow rapidly to very large proportions, for such enterprises are found in every state. They are, however, usually begun and matured by a combination of men of experience and capital—seldom founded and made successes, practically unaided, by one person starting as a youth, with grime, grit, and a few borrowed dollars as his associates. Thus was founded an industry which eventually became the largest of its kind in the world.
In the year 1903, Mr. McClain was seeking “the most perfect cotton mill location in the world”. A tract of land near Cartersville, Georgia, became the site of a model mill and village—Atco—unique, in that it was the first cotton mill village in the South where cottages were designed with unusual regard for the comfort and welfare of the employees, where streets and sidewalks, lawns and parks, were part of well-laid plans, where a regular church building was provided exclusively for Divine service, a large and beautiful brick building for school purposes, with rooms for lodge meetings and a hall for moving pictures and local entertainments, a kindergarten, swimming pool and playgrounds centrally located. In the words of the late Senator Rebecca Latimer Felton, “Aladdin’s lamp never exhibited a greater feat in human dreams than has been bestowed on this section of Cherokee, Georgia, with the real things that multitudes work for, strive for and suffer for, in towns and rural places and fail to obtain during mortal life”.
“And ye shall succor men;
‘Tis nobleness to serve;
Help them who cannot help again;
Beware from right to swerve”.
Atco was the work of a creator, the realization of an ideal, an expression of his humanitarian qualities, offspring of his genius as a builder.
Born of a desire In do something of superlative value for his native town, the high school, followed in succession by the other features forming an ensemble, became a reality. Through his aid. Greenfield discarded its old building and erected a new plant, planned and built by him. with the exception of the Elementary School, modern in every detail, in accord with the liest educational thought of the day. Simplicity and practicality were the keynotes, with harmony and beauty the crowning achievement. Mr. McClain had always been interested in education and. in an unostentatious way. had shown his concern in the local schools on many occasions. Perhaps the memory of his own school days, spent in unpleasant and uncomfortable quarters, amid surroundings sometime unsympathetic and uncongenial influenced him in his final decision. In any event, he had a vision of a great institution designed to train the heart and head and hand of the youth of the community and through them and its civic activities to touch the lives of every man and woman in the community.
Into the development of this great educational project he gave far more than wealth, in a very special sense he gave himself, his devotion, his lo|c. his model—an ideal beautifully realized in brick and stone and steel. Mr. McClain 9 projects were always ol his own conception, and directed largely by himself, though in later years much reliance necessarily was placer) in others, without whose assistance he would scarcely have found time in which to plan the new ventures, both industrial and philanthropic,
that one after another have followed with the years.
His whole success sprang from his personal qualities, from his being equal, or more than equal, to his opportunities that, in some respects, he himself created.
Mr. McClain was usually found in his office, he being the first to arrive and often the last to leave. No detail concerning anything in which he was interested was too minute or too tedious to escape his observation yet the end of each day usually found him with the business of that day finished. His position might long ago have led him into an impatience of discussion and a tendency to lay down edicts for others, were he not always willing calmly to examine, to welcome discussion, and to accept the suggestions of another, if found of merit. Quick in penetrating into the character of those with whom he came into contact, and nice in his observation of their course, he inspired loyalty in his assistants. He was inflexible in his attachment to those who stood by him. as well as
unfailing in his courtesy and kindness. His genius, il genius it may be called, was for Work. Fifty and more consecutive years of work surety merit peace and happiness and to him, now, that eternal rest.
Through lines of sturdy pioneers Mr. McClain’s ancestry has been traced to the founders of early settlements, the promoters of the cultural, the civic and the religious virtues of their communities: indeed, back to the same antecedents and lines as did Washington, the Father of our Country.
He lived to enjoy the fruit of his labors, and as time mellowed his thoughts and as one by one life’s more strenuous activities were laid aside, h? might well have expressed his creed in the words of the poet—-
”To live undaunted, unafraid
Of any step that I have made;
To be without pretense or sham
Exactly what men think I am.”
“To leave some simple mark behind
To keep my having lived in mind”