McCrary, the son of former Gulf Power CEO Douglas McCrary, grew up in Shades Valley and spent time as a boy restoring jukeboxes with his father. He graduated from Shades Valley High School and earned his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering at Auburn University in 1973 and took a job at Southern Services Company.
McCrary went on to complete a juris doctorate at the Birmingham School of Law and was admitted to the Alabama State bar in 1979. He was named head of Alabama Power's environmental compliance department in 1982 and rose through the executive ranks until being elected president and CEO in 2001. His accomplishments with the company include organizing a "best practices" playbook to share methodologies for electrical generation between plants, improving efficiency in rail transport of fuel, and instituting procedures reducing idle time caused by equipment failures. McCrary also oversaw the development of pollution-reducing technologies at Alabama Power generating plants. He retired in 2014 and was succeeded by Mark Crosswhite.
McCrary has served as chairman of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama and on the boards of Regions Bank, Mercedes-Benz US International, and the Protective Life Corporation. He has also served on the boards of the University of Alabama Health Services Foundation and Southern Research Institute.
Outside of business, McCrary has served on the boards of the Children First Foundation, the Birmingham Museum of Art, the Alabama Archives and History Foundation, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Alabama Historical Radio Society. He has also served on the Auburn University Board of Trustees and chaired its 2006 presidential search committee. He has served on the transition teams for incoming Mayor of Birmingham Larry Langford and Governor of Alabama Robert Bentley.
In a speech before the Kiwanis Club of Birmingham in March 2006, McCrary publicly criticized the lack of cooperation between governments and major shareholders in the Birmingham area. He proclaimed to the leaders of Birmingham that, "there will be a far smaller Birmingham to lead unless all of us take action." His remarks helped propel the merger of the Birmingham Metropolitan Development Board, Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce and Region 2020 into the Birmingham Business Alliance and served on the BBA committee charged with implementing its Blueprint Birmingham strategic plan. McCrary is also credited with taking the initiative to invite Richard Kessler to consider Birmingham for one of his Kessler Collection luxury hotels.
McCrary was inducted into the Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame in 2003 and the Alabama Academy of Honor in 2009. He is married to the former Phyllis Brantley of Birmingham, and has two sons, Doug and Alex.
- Tomberlin, Michael (February 11, 2014) "McCrary retiring from Alabama Power, Crosswhite named new CEO." The Birmingham News
- Charles D. McCrary at the Alabama Academy of Honor