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Richard I. McKinney

Scholar and minister Richard McKinney was born on August 8, 1906, in Live Oak, Florida. McKinney graduated as valedictorian of his high school class at Morehouse Academy in 1927, and went on to attend Morehouse College. In 1931, McKinney received his A.B. degree in religion and philosophy; from there, he attended Andover Newton Theological School, where he earned his B.D. degree in 1934 and his S.T.M degree in 1937 in philosophy of religion. From Andover, McKinney went on to Yale University to earn his Ph.D. in 1942 with a focus on religion in higher education; he did his post-doctoral research at the University of Chicago, Columbia University, and the University of Paris.

While attending Andover, McKinney began his ministry in 1934, preaching at Pond Street Baptist Church in Providence, Rhode Island. In 1935, McKinney left Pond Street Church to join Virginia Union University as the director of religious activities and an assistant professor. McKinney remained at Virginia Union until 1944, eventually rising to the rank of dean of the School of Religion in 1942. Hired in 1944 by Storer College in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, McKinney became the first African American president of the school. In 1951, McKinney was recruited by Morgan State University to work as a professor and to chair the Department of Philosophy and the Division of the Humanities. McKinney remained at Morgan State University until 1978, rising to the position of acting dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

After leaving Morgan State University, McKinney returned to Virginia Union for a year, where he served as acting vice president for academic affairs. After leaving that position, McKinney continued his own research, writing, and lecturing, independently.

McKinney was listed in Who's Who in America, Who's Who in Black America and in the Dictionary of International Biography. McKinney served as the chairman of the Board of Union Baptist Church, and on the Board of Trustees of the Enoch Pratt Free Library of Baltimore.

Richard McKinney, the father of two, grandfather of five, and great-grandfather of six, passed away on October 28, 2005 at the age of ninety-nine.

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Interview Date


Last Name


Middle Name



Morehouse Academy

Morehouse College

Andover Newton Theological School

Yale University

First Name


Birth City, State, Country

Live Oak



Favorite Season




Favorite Vacation Destination


Favorite Quote

We must use our minds.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Interview Description
Birth Date


Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City




Favorite Food


Death Date


Short Description

College president and theologian Richard I. McKinney (1906 - 2005 ) was the first African American president of Storer College.


Pond Street Baptist Church

Virginia Union University

Storer College

Virginia State University

Morgan State University

Timing Pairs

<a href="">Tape: 1 Slating of Richard McKinney interview: name and date of birth</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Slating of Richard McKinney interview, continued</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Richard McKinney's favorites</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Richard McKinney describes his father's background</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Richard McKinney discusses his siblings</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Richard McKinney remembers his mother</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Richard McKinney remembers the sights, smells and sounds of his childhood</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Richard McKinney reflects on media outlets of the early 20th century</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Richard McKinney reviews his early avocations</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Richard McKinney reflects on his education</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Richard McKinney recalls his participation in musical activities in college</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Richard McKinney remembers lessons from influential instructors</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Richard McKinney recounts episodes from his college years at Morehouse College</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Richard McKinney recalls winning a fellowship to study the Quakers</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Richard McKinney recalls working to fund his seminary education</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Richard McKinney recounts his experience at Andover Newton Theological School</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Richard McKinney reviews key concepts from ancient philosophers</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Richard McKinney shares reflections on the black church</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Richard McKinney remembers his contemporary, Reverend Joseph Jackson</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Richard McKinney evaluates mega-churches</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Richard McKinney discusses his early teaching post and his pursuit of graduate studies</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Richard McKinney remembers influential instructors from his graduate years at Yale University</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Richard McKinney details his tenure at Storer College in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Richard McKinney discusses the closings of black colleges</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Richard McKinney recalls his interactions with W. E. B. DuBois</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Richard McKinney expresses his hopes and concerns for the black community</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Richard McKinney considers his legacy</a>

<a href="">Tape: 6 Richard McKinney explains his longevity</a>

<a href="">Tape: 6 Richard McKinney discusses his many book projects</a>

<a href="">Tape: 6 Richard McKinney describes how he'd like to be remembered</a>







Richard McKinney reviews his early avocations
Richard McKinney details his tenure at Storer College in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
What kind of little boy were you growing up? What did you like to do and what were you interested in?$$Well, as a child, my father [George McKinney, Sr.] being the pastor of the church and the head of the school, I became interested in what he was doing, as an educator and as a preacher. And every year, there was an opportunity for people at the school to become members of the church. And they called it a, a, a student revival. I was six, I didn't need to be revived, but I--when they, that week was held, and I--of course, my first year in school, I was six, six years old, when they asked for people to come and join, I went up too. I told my mother [Sally Ellis McKinney] about it. She was not too happy. She didn't think that I knew what I was doing. I thought I knew what I was doing. My dad, of course, was very adamant. He, he said, he's knows what he's doing. And so I was baptized into the church at, at the age of six. And since my dad was my ideal, my role model, I said I was gonna be a preacher. And that was my intension until I got into my third year of college. At that time, I discovered philosophy. And I decided that I would maintain my determination to go into the ministry, to take a theological degree at a seminary, work in a church for five years and withdraw and go back to the university and get a Ph.D in philosophy. That was my scenario. I did the first part of it. I did go to the seminary. I did get a church in Providence, Rhode Island, and after I'd been there for less than a year, I was invited to teach at Virginia Union [University] for one semester to substitute for a man who was unable to be there on account of illness. It was easy for me to get a, a replacement for me at my church in Providence, Rhode Island for that semester. But after I got down there, I got the bug of wanting to teach. So I stayed there, after they gave me the job. The man for whom I was substituting had a terminal illness, and so I, I took the job, and I've been an academe ever since.$$Okay.$$That's a long ways from boyhood.$$Right, but I want to go back to boyhood, but that's, yeah, that's, we'll get to all that.$$But in boyhood, I, I had, as a young man, I did have a job working at somebody's house as a--to clean up the yard, helped clean out the garden and things that a ten, twelve-year old boy might be able to do. I later on had a job helping out the, the owner of that house who had a photography shop. And I helped clean up the photography shop and so. So those were the kinds of occupations I could get for about fifty cents or less a day. And it was part of my becoming aware of the world of work. Later on, when I was in, in, in college--first of all, before I was able to get to college, as the youngest of eight children, all of the others had to go out of town for their, their education. And they went to Morehouse College and Spelman College. And by the time I finished the seventh grade at this school in Live Oak [Florida], there was no money for me to go to college or to continue my education. I stayed out two years after the seventh grade. And eventually, my father found a school that I could get a scholarship in Georgia, Americus Institute in Americus, Georgia to which I went.$When you graduated from Yale [University] you continued--you came back as the dean of the School of Religion again?$$Yes, I came back to Virginia Union [University]. And Virginia Union up until that time had a curriculum in the college with emphasis upon religion and upon graduation, instead of getting an A.B., you got--or some other, I forget the name of the degree. But it was not an adequate preparation for religious work. And many schools discontinued that, who had had it as part of college. So Virginia Union discontinued it too. And the president asked me to set up a religious study program on the graduate level. And I reorganized the whole study of religion at Virginia Union and made it into a, a graduate program, following the standards of the American Theological Association and so on, or American Association of Theological Schools. And that was in the early 1940s. And I became dean of that school and served there for about two years as dean. And then I changed schools and went to a college in West Virginia, Storer College.$$Now, what--tell us about Storer College. Who founded it and who, you know, what was the nature of Storer?$$After the Civil War, there were a lot of freedpeople living in that area, Harpers Ferry. Prior to the Civil War, there had been a factory in Harpers Ferry, manufacturing ammunition and arms. It was run by the government, and that is the reason why John Brown decided to go to Harpers Ferry because there were good guns there. And he felt that if he could capture that armory and the guns, the slaves would have the weapons with which to fight for their own freedom. That was his, his, his logic in going to Harpers Ferry, to get something where he could fight. And after the war was over--of course, the army did not operate, and there were all these people. And as was happening in other denominations, the Free-Will Baptist in New Hampshire sent a man down to that area to minister to these people, educationally. His, his name was--is [Nathan] Brackett, B-R-A-C-K-E-T-T. I can't recall his first name at the moment, but he started classes of these freed people, and he was allowed to use one of the buildings that the government used for his operation of the, of the, the armory. And, well, people in that denomination, living in New England, sent money down there for the school. And they were talking it up because the Free-Will Baptist wanted to be, as the denominations were, established with Morehouse College and a number of other institutions, Fisk [University] and others. So they wanted to establish their particular school. And they were able to get a very wealthy industrialist in Maine, by the name of John Storer. And John Storer wanted to do something for the education of the freedmen. But he challenged the Free-Will Baptists to work themselves for the basic needs to operate this school. He said to them, if you will raise ten thousand dollars, I will give you ten thousand dollars. That was a lot of money in 1867. But they went at it, and they finally at last were able to raise this money to meet the deadline. And they were able to get the commitment of John Storer and named the school for him. And it became a center for the education of, of blacks, first starting at an elementary level and as I said earlier, moving up to the high school. And many of the middle-class blacks sent their children to high school at Harpers Ferry and Storer College. They got them out of the city and its temptations. And it was a very good school, had good teachers.$$Now, you became president in what year?$$1944.$$1944. And you were president until '54 [1954]?$$1950. I was there six years.$$Six years, okay, now, there's a--now, what were the major challenges at Storer College for you?$$The major challenge was raising money and also increasing the student body. The problem was twofold. Many of the colleges that had been, had been founded around that time, 1867, had been able to develop a constituency from which students and, and finances could be raised. Storer College, located as it was in a village, did not have that base or students. We had to forage around for students to come there. The second challenge was money. I knew that before I took the job. But I said, maybe we could be able to get the money. Tied into the challenge of money was the challenge of accreditation by the regional accrediting agency. Because it was accredited by the State of West Virginia, but not by the North Central Association of College and Secondary Schools, as accredited by the State of West Virginia, our graduates go out into the community and do teaching, social work or similar occupations, go into the ministry. But they could not get into a medical school because the facilities did not measure up to North Central Association standards. So my challenge was to get the school accredited and I went there and said if I could get it accredited in four years, I will stay. If not, I will leave. I was able to raise the income, but not enough to meet the demands of the North Central Association for our science department. We couldn't meet the demands because we didn't have money. We couldn't get into some fundraising programs because we didn't have all the programs that we needed. So we were in a vicious cycle. We couldn't get accredited because we didn't have money--we didn't have the money, we couldn't get accredited. So after five years, I told the trustees I was leaving. And they had persuaded me to stay. I did stay another year, but I didn't feel that that was the place I should spend the best years of my life. So I did resign, and in my first year, I went to Virginia State [University] for a year. Mean while, the job at Morgan State [University] had been promised to me for the following year. So while I was at Virginia State, I was doing the work of a friend of mine who was on leave, directing religious activities and then getting prepared to come to Morgan, which I did in 1951. I came here as a full professor of philosophy, head of, head of department, and stayed as their head for over twenty-five years. So that's my, my career.$$That's like, it's almost--that is, like fifty years ago, you know, that's--.$$Oh, yes, it's fifty--yes, when I go to, to the meeting of the alumni association, I meet these people whom I knew when they were eighteen, nineteen, twenty years old. One year, I went to alumni reunion--the alumni still has reunions although the school is closed. And they had on the program there was to be an award given to me, and I was sitting on the, on the podium--on the platform, trying to see if I could see this person. I didn't see the person, I thought. Time came for that part of the program, this person came up. And I didn't recognize her from what she looked like fifty years earlier. But it's fascinating. The school closed here some years after I left. I left in 1951. And they closed in 1955. Up until that time, the State of West Virginia--$$Keep talking, finish.$$--the State of West Virginia had given Storer a stipend every year because that part of West Virginia was in the eastern panhandle.$$And that year, that, '55 [1955], they didn't give it?$$No, up until '55 [1955], yes. As I said, they gave the money because there was a law against the co-education of races in Virginia. There was a school seven miles away from Storer, Shepherd College [now Shepherd University]. Black kids in that panhandle could not go there for a college education.