Robert McKinney, the son of Judge Herbert Joseph and Myrtle (Dodson) McKinney, was born August 8, 1913 near Jacksonville, MO. He graduated from Cairo High School in 1930 then attended the University of Missouri for his freshman year in college. The next year, he transferred to Northeast Missouri State Teachers College (now Truman State University) where he completed his studies, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in 1936.
From January 1938 until early 1940, when he resigned to enlist in the US Army, Robert was secretary & assistant to Walter H Ryle, Northeast’s President. He was promoted to Technical Sergeant in the 39th Division, in September 1940 and later attended Officer Candidate School, receiving his commission in 1942. In August 1943, he transferred to the Inspector General’s Office and served in England and France for the rest of the war.
Before going overseas, Robert was stationed at Camp Howze, a temporary training base near Gainesville, Cooke County, TX. He and Virginia Frances McCuistion, a native of the county, were married in Gainesville May 1, 1943. Their two sons, Robert Logan Jr and Thomas Hal, were born after the war.
Lt Colonel McKinney was released from active duty in 1946 and returned to Kirksville where he resumed his position as President Ryle’s personal assistant. Five years later, in 1951, Robert was recalled to active duty during the Korean conflict and continued on active status until he retired with the rank of Colonel in August 1965. He served in the Inspector General’s office at the Pentagon and in Japan, with the 417th Aviation Brigade in Japan and the 7th Logistical Command in Korea. His final assignment was as Chief of the Program & Doctrine Branch, Combat Development Command, Ft Lee, VA.
Once again, he returned to Northeast as the President’s Assistant and was given additional duties as Head of the Division of Public Relations and Information. He was working in this capacity at the time of his death in Jefferson City, January 19, 1973. He died of a heart attack in the Missouri State capitol where he was to appear before the House Appropriations Committee on behalf of the University. He was buried with military honors at Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery.
Robert was a member of the American College Public Relations Association and was an active Mason and a founding member of the Kirksville Jaycees. After his death, the Col Robert L McKinney Memorial Scholarship was established by his family and friends. That summer, the former Industrial Arts Building, now an administrative building, was renamed the McKinney Public Relations Center in his honor. The building name was changed again in 2005 to The Colonel & Mrs Robert L McKinney Center.
“Col. R. McKinney Funeral Set for Thursday Morning”. Kirksville Daily Express. 30 Jan 1973.
Harrison, Robert L. “Robert L McKinney”. Nemoscope 28:2/3 (Spring/Sumer 1973).
“McKinney Assumes Command of Engineer Depot”. Nemoscope 7:4 (Special Ed 1959).
“McKinney Returns to the College”. Nemoscope 20:1 (Fall 1965).
“Recalled to Active Service in Army”. Nemoscope 5:2 (Winter 1951).