William Madison "Gooseneck Bill" McDonald was born in 1866 near Johnson Point, a small community southeast of Terrell. His parents, former slaves, were George McDonald, born in Tennessee, and Flora Scott McDonald, born in Alabama. His mother died when he was young, and his father remarried to Belle Crouch.
McDonald started school at age seven and graduated from high school in 1884. He had the reputation of being the smartest boy in all the area schools. During his youth, he worked for attorney and rancher Capt. Z.T. Adams, who took an interest in McDonald, lecturing him on business and law while he worked.
After graduating, McDonald was principal of the African American high school in Forney. His first wife, Alice Gibson McDonald, was a teacher there. He remained principal for several years.
McDonald was an early leader in Texas' Republican party as part of the "Black and Tan" faction, a group of whites and blacks who shared leadership roles. His political partnership with powerful businessman E.H.R. Green provided him a strong voice in state politics. In 1899, he became the right worshipful grand secretary of Texas' African American Masons, a position he held for almost 50 years.
McDonald moved in 1906 to Fort Worth, where he was a civic leader and businessman. He died in 1950 and is buried in Old Trinity Cemetery, part of Fort Worth's Oakwood Cemetery. Throughout his life, McDonald was a leader in the struggle for social justice, advocating persistence and civic and moral responsibility as the steps to equality.