Larry McDonald was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on April 1, 1935 to Harold McDonald, Sr. and Callie Grace Patton, who was a cousin of U.S. Army General George S. Patton. Following the tradition of his father and grandfather, Larry became a urologist, graduating from Emory University School of Medicine. Upon graduation from Emory University, Larry McDonald joined the U.S. Navy, serving in active duty for four years as a Navy physician and flight surgeon. After completing his active duty tour, he continued in the Naval Reserve, advancing to the rank of Captain.
He continued his medical studies as a resident surgeon at the University of Michigan Hospital, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It was during this time, in 1968 that he made his first run for political office, running for a local committeeman position in the Democratic Party primary. He openly campaigned as a member of The John Birch Society and as a “true” or “historic Democrat”, harkening back to the party roots of Jefferson, Jackson, and Grover Cleveland. Adhering to the Constitution, he rejected the New Deal, big government approach of Franklin Roosevelt and subsequent Democrats.
Although he lost the primary election to the incumbent, an establishment Democrat, he nonetheless gained valuable insight into politics that would prove helpful in his future run for Congress in 1972, at the age of 37. He was elevated to the National Council of The John Birch Society as its youngest member.
In 1974, he was elected to Congress and represented Georgia’s Seventh District. As a member of the House of Representatives, he not only made a name for himself as a crusader against Communism and a strong advocate of National Security, but he was also the most conservative member of Congress, earning a 100 percent approval from the Review of the News’ “Conservative Index” which was the precursor the “Freedom Index” published by The New American magazine.
His impeccable conservative credentials followed from his firm adherence to the U.S. Constitution. Before voting on an issue, he always asked himself the following three questions: (1) is it constitutional, (2) do we need it, and (3) can we afford it? This filtration process resulting in many “No” votes, much like that of his good friend and esteemed colleague Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. Larry also worked closely with Rep. John M. Ashbrook of Ohio in the establishment of Western Goals Foundation, the stated mission of which was “to strengthen the political, economic and social structure of Western Civilization so as to make any merger with totalitarians impossible.”
On March 14, 1983, Larry succeeded Robert Welch as Chairman of The John Birch Society. Later that year, in an attempt to expand the Western Goals Foundation overseas, he boarded Korean Air Lines flight 007, from New York City to Seoul, South Korea. On September 1, 1983 while en route to Seoul, following a refueling stop in Alaska, KAL 007 deviated off course into Soviet airspace where it was shot down by a Soviet MIG fighter jet over Sakhalin Island. This resulted in the loss of KAL 007’s crew and its passengers, 269 people, including Rep. McDonald. Missing in Action, Larry McDonald was the only U.S. Congressman lost to the communists during the Cold War. A memorial highway has been named in his honor in Georgia.