Bishop George McKinney
Bishop George Dallas McKinney was born the ninth of fourteen children on August 9, 1932, in Jonesboro, Arkansas. He was the valedictorian of his class at Booker T. Washington High School in Arkansas, and a Magna Cum Laude graduate of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, where he received a B.A. degree in Sociology. McKinney earned his M.A. degree in Systematic Theology from Oberlin College and also studied at the University of Michigan, Graduate School of Social Work. He received a Ph.D. in Ecclesiology from California Graduate School of Theology in 1973, and later an honorary D.D. from Geneva College.
McKinney grew up the son of a sharecropper in a strictly segregated society. He credited his parents for instilling lifelong healthy values, particularly two things: good religion and good education. As a teenager, McKinney already knew he wanted to serve in the ministry. After completing his college studies, he attended seminary at Oberlin College, in part due to the college's long history in civil rights. McKinney felt the church should be at the cutting edge of advocating for peace and justice.
After several years interning with Bishop J. A. Blake, McKinney started St. Stephen’s Church of God in Christ in 1962 with a vision for the church to be a lighthouse in the community, teaching and equipping people to live abundantly. Accordingly, St. Stephen's founded many civic institutions over the years including (but not limited to) the Southeast Counseling and Consulting Services, the St. Stephen’s Day Care Center, the St. Stephen’s Christian School, American Urban University, the St. Stephen’s Retirement Center, and Jean C. McKinney Manor.
For his work in improving and uplifting the community, McKinney has been recognized numerous times, including being named San Diego County's "Social Worker of the Year" in 1963, "Mr. San Diego" by the San Diego Rotary Club in 1995, and "Race Reconciliation Man of the Year" by the National Association of Evangelicals in 2001. He also received the Peace Maker Award presented by the San Diego Rotary in 2007.
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Bishop George McKinney's oral history covers his early life in Arkansas, his extensive educational background and diverse professional experience, and major accomplishments under his leadership of St. Stephen's Church of God in Christ, which he also founded. This history is divided into two parts. Part 1 includes McKinney's reflections on growing up the son of a sharecropper in a strictly segregated society, his education and early jobs, and his calling to come to California. McKinney also mentions his impressions attending Dr. Martin Luther King's first speech in San Diego in 1960, as well as his perceptions of the relationship between blacks and the police department at that time. In Part 2, Bishop McKinney details his establishment of St. Stephen's Church of God in Christ, with an emphasis on the accomplishments of the church, particularly in the form of social institutions such as a school and retirement center. He also mentions his role models, what he might have done differently in life, and changes he's witnessed in San Diego over the last 50 years.
Interview digitally recorded on June 29, 2010 by Gloria Rhodes.