H. F. McCarty, 76, Builder of Poultry Business

New York Times
Published: June 14, 1998

H. F. McCarty Jr., a Mississippi entrepreneur who transformed a feed and seed store into one of the nation's biggest poultry operations, died of heart failure on June 6 at his home in Magee, Miss., his son, John R. McCarty, said. He was 76.

In addition to his business activities, Mr. McCarty, who was known as Mac, was an active and generous supporter of a wide range of educational institutions in his native state.

He established scholarships at most of Mississippi's major universities, donating money to historically black colleges like Jackson State University and endowing professorships at the University of Mississippi, Millsaps College and Rust College.

''Mac loved to make money, but he liked to make it because he liked to give it away,'' said George M. Harmon, president of Millsaps College, where Mr. McCarty was a lifetime trustee.

Born in Ovett, Miss., during the Depression, Mr. McCarty was raised by two great-aunts, Annie and Birdie McCarty, who managed the family business, McCarty & Company, in Collins, Miss., as well as a 600-acre farm.

''He got all of his enterprise from the two aunts who raised him,'' John McCarty said.

A career in business was not foremost on Mr. McCarty's mind in his early years.

After graduating from the University of Mississippi and service in the Army Air Corps in World War II, Mr. McCarty earned a master's degree in history at the University of South Carolina and had aspirations of becoming either a lawyer or an academic.

In 1947, however, after spending a year and a half at the University of Mississippi School of Law, Mr. McCarty's father asked his son to join the family feed and seed business. He chose to give up a legal career, and in February 1948 opened a second store in nearby Magee.

Within a year Mr. McCarty's store was on solid footing. But he saw better growth prospects in the poultry business, and in 1949 bought a small hatchery, supplying chicks and feed to farmers in the surrounding area.

The business flourished in the 1950's and 1960's, and by the mid-1970's McCarty Farms Inc. was well on the way to becoming a vertically integrated poultry producer, with direct control over the selection, growth and processing of the chickens that it marketed. In 1981, the company established McCarty Foods and became a further processor of broiled meat.

With his son, John, and daughter, Marsha McCarty Wells, in key positions, by the mid-1990's Mr. McCarty had built the business into one of the Mississippi's largest employers, with more than 4,000 employees and contracts with more than 400 independent chicken farmers.

In 1994, McCarty Farms had sales of more than $300 million. A year later the closely held company was sold to Tyson Foods Inc. for an undisclosed price.

In addition to his philanthropic work for Mississippi's schools and colleges, Mr. McCarty was also a devoted supporter of the United Methodist Church.

''He lived a life of quiet service,'' said Robert Khayat, chancellor of the University of Mississippi.

''From humble beginnings, he built a wonderfully successful business and throughout his life placed an important emphasis on philanthropy,'' he said.

Mr. McCarty is survived by his wife, the former Mary Ann Henry, of Magee; three daughters, Patti Sullivan of Jackson, Miss., Katherine Flint of Flowood, Miss., and Marsha Wells of Ridgeland, Miss.; a son, John R. McCarty of Jackson; five sisters, Lunita Badgerow of Detroit, Jane Haman of Atlanta, and Margaret Ann Crawley, Frankie McCarty and Mary McNair, all of Magee; 11 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.