Ralph J. McNair, 87, a retired life insurance executive who had also worked for the FBI, hosted a local television quiz show, owned a square-dance barn and been a polka champion, died of pneumonia July 30 at Sibley Memorial Hospital. He was a resident of Chevy Chase.
For 31 years, Mr. McNair worked for what is now the American Council of Life Insurers, retiring in 1981 as executive vice president.
But before that career, Mr. McNair tried out a variety of endeavors.
Straight out of the University of Denver, which was near his home town, Mr. McNair opened a square-dance barn outside of Denver, where for two years in the early 1940s, he and his wife gave lessons and hosted dances. They won the tri-state polka crown for their moves.
He joined the FBI in 1942, believing that it would be his career, and worked in field offices in Denver, Memphis, New York, Boston and then Washington, D.C. In 1948, the lure of Capitol Hill captured him and he became chief of staff for Colorado Sen. Eugene Milliken (R) for three years.
At the same time, he wrote and hosted a quiz show on NBC's Washington affiliate station. "The Eyes Have It" featured guests from the world of politics, and Mr. McNair "would show a portion of a picture, like a jigsaw puzzle, and ask questions. They would keep adding pieces until someone got it," said one of his sons, Donald. "Dad was the producer, creator and fundraiser as well."
He also wrote two books on square dancing, "Western Square Dances" (1941) and "Square Dance!" (1951).
After Mr. McNair moved into his main career in 1951, he volunteered as a Boy Scout leader, winning the Silver Beaver Award, Scouting's highest award for an adult. He penned a humorous account of a Scouts camping trip taken during Easter week in 1957, which was published in The Washington Post.
He was also a member of Chevy Chase Presbyterian Church, the Bethesda-Chevy Chase chapter of the Izaak Walton League, the Kenwood Golf and Country Club and the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI. He volunteered at Sibley Memorial Hospital.
Survivors include his wife of 65 years, Shirley McNair of Chevy Chase; two sons, Douglas McNair of Reston and Donald McNair of Edina, Minn.; five grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.