E.E. "Ed" McAteer, founder of the Religious Roundtable and a conservative activist whose friendships crossed social and political lines, died at his East Memphis home Wednesday morning after a lengthy bout with cancer. He was 78.
Though Republican candidates and office-holders were most often the beneficiaries of his support, McAteer professed no party-line credo. He always said that it was he who had brought together the Christian conservatives who later became known, generically, as the Moral Majority. It was certainly McAteer who sponsored the 1980 Texas summit with presidential candidate Ronald Reagan that organized fundamentalist support for the Republican nominee and put the Christian Right on the political map.
McAteer came to the activist phase of his life after a long and successful career in business, during which he had served as national sales director for Colgate-Palmolive-Peet
In recent years, McAteer, always a steadfast supporter of the state of Israel, had bent most of his efforts toward organizing prayer meetings and conferences on behalf of the embattled Middle Eastern nation. After the swearing-in of George W. Bush in 2001, McAteer lobbied the new president to become ambassador to Israel and won a surprising amount of support from other government figures.
In his youth, McAteer had been a Golden Gloves boxing champion in Memphis. During World War Two, he served in the Navy and was a survivor of the first ship sunk by a Japanese kamikaze plane in 1945.
Even in recent months, when he was undergoing treatment for his illness, McAteer maintained a busy round of activities He continued to preside over the monthly Dutrch Treat Luncheon, a forum involving local political figures.
He made sure to take in the Jones-Johnson light heavyweight title fight at the FedEx Forum last month, and on Tuesday watched the televised vice-presidential debate attentively.
A member of Bellevue Baptist Church, he is survived by Faye McAteer, his wife of more than half a century; two sons, Edward McAteer II of Murfreesboro and Timothy NcAteer of Bartlett; six grandchildren; and 9 great-grandchldren.
Visitation will be at Bellevue at 9 am. Friday, followed by the funeral at 10. Ronk Funeral Home of Alamo is in charge.