Jack Kirkham McFall was born in Tacoma, Washington on September 23, 1905, an only child of Col. Gideon and Sarah K. McFall. The former was from Oskaloosa, Iowa, and the latter from Sullivan, Indiana. McFall's early youth was spent in Denver, Colorado, where he attended East Denver High School. The McFall family subsequently moved to Kansas City, Missouri, where young Jack McFall was eventually graduated from Northeast High School. In 1923, the family settled in Gary, Indiana, where McFall worked for two years as a teller in the Commercial Trust Bank.
In 1925, McFall entered the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., following a boyhood ambition to become a diplomat. In order to defray expenses during his college years, he worked as an assistant secretary to Sen. Arthur Robinson of Indiana.
After graduation in 1929, McFall was appointed executive secretary of the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee by Congressman Will R. Wood of Indiana. During this appointment, McFall enrolled in evening courses at the George Washington School of Law (formerly the National University), Wasjington, D.C., graduating in 1933 with an L.L.B.
In 1936, McFall joined the Naval Reserve, and was subsequently called to service in 1942 as a senior grade lieutenant. He served as a U.S. Naval Observer in Sierra Leone, Africa, and then as First Assistant Naval Attache and Naval Attache for Air at the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa, Canada. His outstanding work during the war years won him citations from Thomas B. Inglis, chief of Naval Intelligence (1944), and from James Forrestal, secretary of the Navy (1946). McFall was discharged from the Navy as a commander in 1946, when he returned for a year to the House Appropriations Committee.
In 1947, at the age of 42, McFall was accepted into the U.S. Foreign Service, and took up his first assignment as U.S. consul in Montreal, Canada. In 1949 he was posted to Athens, Greece, as first secretary. Later the same year, he was called back to Washington to take up post as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Congressional Relations under Dean Acheson.
In 1952, McFall was posted to Finland by President Truman to serve as U.S. minister. In 1953, the Finnish legation was raised to embassy status and McFall was consequently appointed by President Eisenhower as the first U.S. ambassador to Finland, in which capacity he served with distinction until he was recalled to Washington in 1954 on temporary assignment as senior advisor to the U.S. delegation to the United Nations. On the first day of his assignment to the U.N., McFall suffered a heart attack. However, less than four months later, he returned to Helsinki against doctors' orders. The following eight months his health continued to deteriorate, and in September 1955 he was compelled to return to the U.S. on leave of absence. In July 1956, he retired from the State Department, although he would continue to obtain assignments when medical clearance permitted.
In the years following his retirement, Amb. McFall was active in numerous diplomatic associations including the Board of Governors of DACOR (Diplomatic and Consular Affairs Retired); the American Scandinavian Foundation for which he was a trustee; the Washington Insitute of Foreign Affairs; the Army Navy Country Club; as well as the Cosmos Club. He was also a member of the Bar of the District of Columbia, the U.S. Court of Appeals, the U.S. Supreme Court, and the American Arbitration Association.
Honors presented to Amb. McFall include the John Carroll Award and the Distinguished Alumni Award from his alma mater Georgetown University.
For many years, the Ambassador and Mrs. McFall made their home in Washington, D.C., spending winters abroad in the Virgin Islands and the British West Indies. McFall died on June 16, 1990, after a stroke, at his winter home in Vero Beach, Florida. He was survived by his wife Martha.